Serbia steps up hunt for Mladic
Serbia is stepping up its hunt for war crimes fugitive Ratko Mladic. Security forces recently searched a factory in the Serbian town of Valjevo where they believed he was hiding.
Serbia's government must arrest the ex-Bosnian Serb general to speed up its EU accession.
Armed with automatic guns and dressed in all-black masks and outfits, the police entered the window factory in the southwestern town of Valjevo, a business believed to have been part of Mladic's support network.
The police was verifying information according to which Mladic could be there, but nobody was found. The search was done under the orders of the Sarajevo war crimes tribunal, which is engaged in an overall action to locate Mladic and those who have been providing financial support for his hiding.
The wartime Bosnian Serb general has used the Valjevo region as a hideout in the past, Goran Petrovic, the former head of Serbia's secret police says.
" He was located there in 2001 after security services intercepted a telephone call."
Ratko Mladic (66) is wanted since 1995 by the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity during his time as commander of the Bosnian Serb military during the 1992-95 Balkan war. He faces charges relating to the siege of Sarajevo which claimed more than 10,000 lives and for the 1995 Srebrenica slaughter of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys.
Hunting Serbia's war criminals
The arrest of Mladic is key for Serbia to join the European Union (EU), a priority for the country's four-month-old government. Serbia said last week the search for war crimes suspects had been intensified ahead of next week's visit by the UN tribunal's chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz. That's three weeks before he submits his report on Serbia's cooperation with the tribunal to the UN Security Council.
Serbia's cooperation with the UN war crimes tribunal is a key condition for closer ties with the EU, which the new pro-Western government hopes to join by 2014. Such cooperation notably involves the arrest and transfer to The Hague of Mladic and the only other remaining war crimes fugitive, Goran Hadzic, a wartime Croatian Serb leader. But Mladic remains at large despite several similar operations in the past few years.
According to Serbian officials, Mladic lived openly in Belgrade under the protection of the military up until June 2002. He received his pension until the end of 2005. For three-and-a-half years up to January 2006, Mladic sheltered in at least five Belgrade flats, aided by supporters who fed him and paid the rent.