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Ratko Mladic, wanted for the slaughter of 8,000 in Srebrenica, is arrested in Serbia

The war crimes suspect was living as a fugitive in a Serbian village. He will now be extradited to The Hague to stand trial.

Graffiti in Belgrade of Ratko Mladic, wanted for genocide and captured in Serbia
Graffiti in Belgrade of Ratko Mladic, wanted for genocide and captured in Serbia
Image: Darko Vojinovic/AP/Press Association Images

EUROPE’S MOST WANTED war crimes suspect Ratko Mladic has been captured in Serbia after years in hiding.

Mladic has been on the run since 1995 when he was indicted by the U.N. war crimes tribunal for genocide in the slaughter of some 8,000 Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica and other crimes committed by his troops during Bosnia’s 1992-95 war. Serbia has been under intense pressure from the international community to catch the fugitive. President Boris Tadic said the arrest had been made by the Serbian Security Intelligence Agency.

Mladic will be extradited to the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, and Tadic said “an extradition process is under way”. He also said:

We have ended a difficult period of our history and removed the stain from the face of the members of our nation wherever they live.

Mladic personally led his troops in the Serb onslaught against the U.N.-protected enclave of Srebrenica in an enclave supposedly protected by U.N. peacekeepers. Thousands of Muslim men and boys were killed there and the town’s name has become nearly synonymous with the horrible bloodshed of the Balkan conflict.

Serbia has been under intense scrutiny with the chief U.N. war crimes prosecutor, Serge Brammertz, complaining earlier this month that authorities were not doing enough to capture Mladic and other war crimes fugitives.

Brammertz was scheduled to report next month to the U.N. Security Council about the Balkan country’s efforts.

Brammertz’s regular reports on Serbia’s compliance are crucial for the country’s attempt to become an European Union member candidate. The EU has conditioned Serbia’s membership bid on the arrest.

With Mladic’s arrest, “we have opened the door for the negotiations and membership in the European Union,” Tadic said.

Prosecutors have said they believed he was hiding in Serbia under the protection of hardliners who consider him a hero. Mladic was last seen in Belgrade in 2006.

DNA confirmation

Croatian media, which first broke the story, said police there got confirmation from their Serbian colleagues that DNA analysis confirmed Mladic’s identity. Belgrade’s B92 radio said Mladic was arrested on Thursday in a village close to the northern Serbian town of Zrenjanin.

In Brussels, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen hailed the arrest, saying Thursday that almost 16 years since Mladic’s ndictment for genocide “his arrest finally offers a chance for justice to be done.”

Colm O’Gorman, executive director of Amnesty International Ireland is welcoming the arrest of Mladic and says:

We hope that the Serbian authorities will continue to track down suspected war criminals. In particular we would ask them to renew their efforts to arrest the remaining indicted suspect Goran Hadzic believed to be at large in either Serbia or Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Tens of thousands of NATO troops were deployed to Bosnia in 1995 to safeguard a U.S.-sponsored peace agreement between that nations’ warring factions. They have since been withdrawn abd replaced by a much smaller European Union force.

The United Nations had declared Serb-besieged Srebrenica, some 90 km northeast of Sarajevo, a protected area for civilians. But the few hundred Dutch Blue Helmets on the ground were left short of credible weaponry or a clear mandate to protect the town.

Srebrenica fell to the Serbs after senior U.N. commanders dithered on Dutch requests for air strikes and its overwhelmingly Bosnian Muslim residents swarmed the U.N. military base, seeking refuge. But the peacekeepers allowed the Serbs to take away the townspeople when Mladic said they would not be harmed.

The shootings began shortly after, and the bodies of the victims were bulldozed into mass graves.

Since then, the bodies of thousands of the victims have been recovered, identified through DNA tests and laid to rest.

Ratko Mladic, wanted for the slaughter of 8,000 in Srebrenica, is arrested in Serbia
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  • In pictures: Ratko Mladic

    July 1995: The former Bosnian Serb wartime commander Mladic talks with the press near the eastern Bosnian enclave of Zepa. Source: Sava Radovanovic/AP/Press Association Images
  • In pictures: Ratko Mladic

    June 1996: Mladic (centre) and his wife Bisiljka walk with bodyguards through woods near the village of Han Pijesak, 60km east of Sarajevo. Bosiljka Mladic was brought in for questioning in June 2010 over weapon's found during a search of the fugitive's houseSource: Str/AP/Press Association Images
  • In pictures: Ratko Mladic

    In this undated file photo Bosnian Serb Leader Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic attend an assembly session near Sarajevo. Source: SRDJAN ILIC/AP/Press Association Images
  • In pictures: Ratko Mladic

    A woman passes by graffiti that reads "Ratko Mladic, a Serbian Hero" in Serbian Cryllic letters in Belgrade. Masked policemen searched Mladic's house in February 2010 in an effort to capture him. Source: Marko Drobnjakovic/AP/Press Association Images
  • In pictures: Ratko Mladic

    Members of Serbia's anti-terrorist unit pepare to search Mladic's home in February 2010. Armed officers blocked the street in the residential Belgrade area. Source: DARKO VOJINOVIC/AP/Press Association Images
  • In pictures: Ratko Mladic

    Milan Lugonja (left), Ratko Vucetic (centre) and Stanko Ristic, three of the people accused of helping Mladic evade justice, converse in a Belgrade courtroom in December 2010.Source: Marko Drobnjakovic/AP/Press Association Images
  • In pictures: Ratko Mladic

    Serbia's president Boris Tadic announced that Mladic has been arrested
  • In pictures: Ratko Mladic

  • In pictures: Ratko Mladic

    Bosnian Muslim women, survivors of the Srebrenica massacre, hold posters with photos of the missing in June 2006. Source: AMEL EMRIC/AP/Press Association Images

- Additional reporting by AP

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