Serbian genocide suspect Ratko Mladic arrested in tiny village by police after 16 years on the ru

  • Serbian special forces capture former general at relative's home 60 miles north of Belgrade
  • Mladic believed to be behind the Srebrenica massacre where 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed
  • US had offered $5million bounty, Serbia €10million
  • Arrest paves the way for Serbia's admission to the EU
  • This offers a chance for justice to be done, says triumphant Nato secretary-general
Wanted: General Ratko Mladic is alleged to have been involved in the Srebrenica massacre
Wanted: General Ratko Mladic is alleged to have been involved in the Srebrenica massacre
General Ratko Mladic, the ruthless Bosnian Serb leader charged with orchestrating Europe's worst massacre of civilians since World War II, has been arrested.
The most prominent Bosnian war crimes suspect still at large, Mladic was wanted for his alleged involvement in the Srebrenica massacre and the siege of Sarajevo.
He has been on the run since 1995, after he was indicted on charges of crimes against humanity by the United Nations war crimes tribunal at the Hague.
Serbian special forces swooped on a relative of Mladic's home in a tiny Serbian village at dawn.
The raid ended a 16-year hunt for the alleged architect of what have been dubbed 'scenes from hell.'
His capture was confirmed by Serbian president Boris Tadic in a triumphant press conference this afternoon.
'On behalf of the Republic of Serbia I can announce the arrest of Ratko Mladic,' Mr Tadic told reporters.
'We have ended a difficult period of our history and removed the stain from the face of Serbia and the members of our nation wherever they live.'
Mr Tadic said Serbia had begun the process of extraditing Mladic to the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague. 
A bullnecked field commander with narrow, piercing blue eyes, Mladic, now 69, faces life imprisonment if tried and convicted of genocide and other charges.
The UN court has no death penalty.
Triumphant: Serbia's President Boris Tadic announces the capture of Ratko Mladic during a media conference in Belgrade
Triumphant: Serbia's President Boris Tadic announces the capture of Ratko Mladic during a media conference in Belgrade
Rural hideout: The village Lazarevo close to the northern Serbian town of Zrenjanin, 60 miles north of Belgrade, where special forces arrested Mladic
Rural hideout: The village Lazarevo close to the northern Serbian town of Zrenjanin, 60 miles north of Belgrade, where special forces arrested Mladic
Before sunrise, agents of Serbia's domestic intelligence agency moved quietly on Mladic's hideout.
He was hiding in a single-story yellow brick house owned by a relative, said Radmilo Stanisic, the de facto mayor of Lazarevo, a village of some 2,000 residents about 60 miles (100 kilometers) northeast of Belgrade.
'They didn't even wake us up,' said a resident who identified himself only as Zoran.
Serbia's B-92 radio said Mladic did not resist the arrest and 'was cooperative.'
Serbian state TV said Mladic was bald and appeared 'worn out.'
Army chief: Ratko Mladic was in charge of the Bosnian Serb army during the Balkan wars
Army chief: Ratko Mladic was in charge of the Bosnian Serb army during the Balkan wars
Mladic was the leader of Bosnian Serb forces during the bloody 1992 - 1995 Balkan wars.
He was the military chief of Radovan Karadzic, the wartime Bosnian Serb political leader, who was captured in Belgrade in July 2008 and remains in detention pending trial for crimes against humanity.
Foremost among the horrors Mladic is charged with is the July 1995 slaughter of up to 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica, which was supposed to be a safe zone guarded by Dutch peacekeepers.
Bosnian Serb forces seized the town and Mladic was seen handing candy to Muslim children in the town's square.
He assured them everything would be fine and patted one boy on the head. Hours later, his men began an orgy of killing, rape and torture.
War crimes tribunal judge Fouad Riad said during Mladic's 1995 indictment in absentia that the court had seen evidence of 'unimaginable savagery: thousands of men executed and buried in mass graves, hundreds of men buried alive, men and women mutilated and slaughtered, children killed before their mothers' eyes, a grandfather forced to eat the liver of his own grandson.'
'These are truly scenes from hell, written on the darkest pages of human history,' he said.
Europe's worst atrocity since World War Two: Forensic experts examine a mass grave in Bosnia near the site of the notorious 1995 Srebrenica massacre
Europe's worst atrocity since World War Two: Forensic experts examine a mass grave in Bosnia near the site of the notorious 1995 Srebrenica massacre
Reward: Although a hefty bounty had been offered for Mladic's arrest it is thought he had been living openly in Serbia for a long time
Reward: Although a hefty bounty had been offered for Mladic's arrest it is thought he had been living openly in Serbia for a long time
THE CHARGES AGAINST MLADIC
General Ratko Mladic has been on the run since 1995, when the UN war crimes tribunal at the Hague indicted him on 15 counts of war crimes.
These are the counts.
  • Count 1: genocide
  • Count 2: complicity in genocide
  • Count 3: Persecutions on political, racial and religious grounds
  • Count 4: Extermination
  • Count 5: Murder
  • Count 6: Murder
  • Count 7: Deportation
  • Count 8: Inhumane acts (forcible transfer)
  • Count 9: unlawfully inflicting terror upon civilians
  • Count 10: murder
  • Count 11: murder
  • Count 12: cruel treatment
But even as Balkan war-crimes fugitives such as Radovan Karadzic and Slobodan Milosevic were brought to The Hague, Mladic was idolized and sheltered by ultranationalists and ordinary Serbs.
This was despite a €10million ($14 million) Serbian government bounty, plus $5 million offered by the U.S. State Department.
He was known to have made daring forays into Belgrade to watch soccer games and feast on fish at an elite restaurant.
In a particularly brazen touch, he had been using the alias Milorad Komadic, an anagram of his true identity, police said.
Justice officials in The Hague said it will take at least a week before Mladic is handed over.
Regular reports on Serbia's compliance with the chief U.N. war crimes prosecutor are crucial for its efforts to become an EU member candidate.
The prosecutor, Serge Brammertz, had long complained that authorities were not doing enough to capture Mladic and other war-crimes fugitives.
On Thursday, Brammertz called justice for the victims of Mladic's alleged crimes in Bosnia 'long overdue.'
Folk hero: A boy walks pass graffiti of Mladic in Belgrade. He is a hero to Serbian ultra-nationalists
Folk hero: A boy walks pass graffiti of Mladic in Belgrade. He is a hero to Serbian ultra-nationalists
In Bosnia, the arrest was welcomed by the head of a group of victims' family members formed to keep the pressure on war crimes investigators.
But, added Munira Subasic, 'I'm sorry for all the victims who are dead and cannot see this day.'
In Brussels, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the arrest 'finally offers a chance for justice to be done.'
The White House said Mladic's capture shows that justice eventually will come to those who perpetrate crimes against humanity.
Croatian media, which first broke the story, said police there got confirmation from their Serbian colleagues that DNA analysis confirmed Mladic's identity.
Justice: Bosnian Muslim woman from Srebrenica Zumra Sahomerovic, center, watches TV in Sarajevo about the arrest of Europe's most wanted war crimes suspect Ratko Mladic
Justice: Bosnian Muslim woman from Srebrenica Zumra Sahomerovic, center, watches TV in Sarajevo about the arrest of Europe's most wanted war crimes suspect Ratko Mladic

'Burn their brains': The ruthlessness of the Serbian god

General Ratko Mladic's ruthlessness was legendary: 'Burn their brains!' he once bellowed as his men pounded Sarajevo with artillery fire.
Mladic, the wartime Bosnian Serb military chief wanted for genocide for Europe's worst massacre of civilians since the Second World War, was the UN war crimes tribunal's No 1 co-fugitive with his partner in crime, Radovan Karadzic.
The 69-year-old had eluded capture since he was indicted by the tribunal in 1995.
But his days as a fugitive were numbered after Serbian security forces captured Karadzic on July 21, 2008, in Belgrade. Today, Serbia's president announced that Mladic is in custody.
Serbian 'God': Bosnian Serb wartime leader, Radovan Karadzic, second right, and his general Ratko Mladic, first left, walk accompanied by bodyguards on Mount Vlasic frontline in this April 15,1995 file photo
Serbian 'God': Bosnian Serb wartime leader, Radovan Karadzic, second right, and his general Ratko Mladic, first left, walk accompanied by bodyguards on Mount Vlasic frontline in this April 15,1995 file photo
Known for personally leading his troops in the 1995 Serb onslaught against the UN-protected enclave of Srebrenica - where thousands of Muslim men and boys were killed - Mladic was indicted for genocide against the Bosnian town's population.
Just hours before the massacre, Mladic had handed out sweets to Muslim children rounded up at the town's square and assured them that all would be fine - even patting one child on the head. That sinister image is forever imprinted in the minds of Srebrenica survivors.
Born on March 12, 1942, in the south-eastern Bosnian village of Bozinovci, Mladic graduated from Belgrade's prestigious military academy and joined the Yugoslav Communists in 1965.
Mladic embarked on his army career when Yugoslavia was a six-state federation. He rose steadily through the military ranks, making general before the country's break-up in 1991.
At the start of the Balkan bloodbath, he was in Croatia leading Yugoslav troops in Knin and was believed to have played a crucial role in the army bombardment of the coastal city of Zadar.
A year later, he assumed command of the Yugoslav Army's 2nd Military District, which effectively became the Bosnian Serb army.
Appointed in 1992 by Karadzic, Mladic led the Bosnian Serb army until the Dayton accords brought peace to Bosnia in 1995.
Genocide: Bosnian Muslim civilan prisoners taken from Srebrenica and transported to a location somewhere on Mount Treskavica
Genocide: Bosnian Muslim civilan prisoners taken from Srebrenica and transported to a location somewhere on Mount Treskavica
As military leaderships go, his was omnipresent, from front-line trenches to chess games on high-altitude outlooks.
He was known for ordering press-ups as a prelude to battle, and he enjoyed reviewing pompous military parades and rubbing shoulders with UN commanders in Bosnia.
MLADIC TIMELINE
1942: Born in south-eastern Bosnian village of Bozinovci.
1945: His father, a Second World War guerrilla fighter, is killed, allegedly by Croat pro-Nazi forces.
1961: Ratko Mladic starts military education.
1992: Having risen through the ranks to become a general, he takes command of newly formed Serb army in Bosnia. Launches siege of Sarajevo; moves to take control of large swath of Bosnia where Serbs established their self-styled rebel republic.
1994: Splits from Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic.
1995: Launches operation to capture UN-protected enclave of Srebrenica, allegedly orders massacre of some 8,000 Muslim boys and men in Europe's largest massacre of civilians since Second World War. Indicted by UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
1997: Replaced as commander of Bosnian Serb army. Assumes low profile but is often seen in Belgrade and elsewhere in Serbia, where he enjoys protection from the military and the government of President Slobodan Milosevic.
2002: Goes into hiding after Milosevic is ousted. Serbia's new pro-Western authorities revoke his military escort.
2010: Serbia's government increases its reward for the capture Mladic from one million euro (£870,000) to 10 million euro (£8.7 million).
May 26, 2011: Mladic is arrested in Serbia.
Obsessed with his nation's history, Mladic saw Bosnia's war - which killed more than 100,000 people and displaced another 1.8 million - as a chance for revenge against 500 years of Turkish-Ottoman occupation of Serbia. He viewed Bosnian Muslims as Turks and called them that as an insult.
Convinced of the power of his army, he was known for telling his soldiers: 'When I give you guarantees, it's as if they are given by God.'
Once, asking air traffic control to clear the way for his helicopter to land, he declared: 'Here speaks Ratko Mladic - the Serbian God.'
Sarajevans never forgot his commands to the Serb gunmen pounding the Bosnian capital in early 1992. Mladic issued his orders through a military radio system, not bothering to scramble his words, which would be picked up, taped and broadcast on television the next day.
'Burn their brains!' he ordered as his gunners trained their artillery on one suburb.
Mladic's short temper only added to his popularity among Bosnian Serbs, who appeared to like him all the more when the general reportedly fell out with Karadzic in 1994.
With Karadzic, Mladic shares a tribunal indictment for genocide linked to the Srebrenica massacre, as well as numerous counts of crimes against humanity.
The allegations include the taking of UN peacekeepers as hostages, the destruction of sacred places, the torture of captured civilians and the wanton destruction of private property.
During the shelling of Sarajevo, Mladic was said to have commanded: 'Scorch and destroy!' He denied ever giving such an order.
The US government offered $5million dollars (£3.2 billion) for information leading to Mladic's arrest or conviction in any country.
Field commander: In this September 1, 1995 file photo, Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic plays pool during the pause in talks with UN commander Bernard Janvie
Field commander: In this September 1, 1995 file photo, Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic plays pool during the pause in talks with UN commander Bernard Janvie
Mladic was dismissed from his post in December 1996 by Biljana Plavsic, then president of the Bosnian Serb republic. In 2003, Plavsic was sentenced to 11 years in prison in her own war crimes trial on a reduced charge of persecution.
In firing Mladic and his entire general staff, Plavsic cited their indictments for war crimes. But her main aim was to sever links with the late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic, with whom Mladic was close.
During the war, Milosevic - who died in 2006 while on trial in The Hague for genocide and crimes against humanity - was revered as the Bosnian Serbs' chief patron. But he later abandoned them when he signed the Dayton agreement, a deal intensely disliked by both Karadzic and Mladic.
Mladic began his fugitive years in Han Pijesak, a military compound in eastern Bosnia built for former Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito.
Impunity: Ratko Mladic dancing with his wife while on the run in Serbia
Impunity: Ratko Mladic dancing with his wife while on the run in Serbia
With his wife, Bosa, Mladic settled down to domesticity, passing the time caring for bees and goats. His 23 goats reputedly bore the names of foreign dignitaries he despised, such as Madeleine Albright, the former US secretary of state.
Surrounded by security guards, he occasionally ventured out of the dense pine forest to mark events such the anniversary of the Bosnian Serb army and St Vitus Day, a religious festival marking the 1389 Serb defeat by the Turks at Kosovo.
When in the late 1990s his trail grew too hot in Bosnia, Mladic moved with family into a posh suburban villa in the Yugoslav capital, Belgrade.
In Belgrade, he was seen attending his son's wedding. He showed up at football games, dined in plush restaurants and frequented elite cafes, refusing to give interviews and smiling quizzically when he happened to be photographed.
When Milosevic was ousted from power in October 2000, and Yugoslavia's new pro-democracy authorities signalled they might hand Mladic over to the tribunal, tabloids had him leaving Belgrade for Bosnia.
But true to his style, Mladic countered those rumours and others that had him terminally ill in Belgrade. Before going underground in 2002, he was repeatedly seen in public - sometimes with his guards, sometimes without them.
 
 
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