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12 Jan 2004 12:42
Nato-led troops remained in the Bosnian Serb town of Pale for a third day on Monday, manning checkpoints as part of an operation to nab top war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic, who is wanted for trial on genocide charges.
“We have reduced our operation overnight but we maintain our presence in Pale,” said Matthew Brock, spokesperson for the Nato-led Stabilisation Force (SFOR).
“There is still a possibility that a war crime suspect is being hidden in Pale,” Brock said, adding that the operation there was SFOR biggest in the last 18 months and involved around 200 soldiers.
Nato troops were continuing to man checkpoints at the entrance to the town in the mountainous region outside Sarajevo, said Brock.
Following a tip-off that Karadzic, who has eluded international troops for eight years, might be in need of medical attention, hundreds of SFOR troops deployed in Pale on Saturday and searched clinics, a church and homes belonging to his wife and children.
But they failed to find the 58-year-old fugitive, who, along with his military chief Ratko Mladic, has played cat-and-mouse with Nato-led troops since they were dispatched to Bosnia in 1996 to oversee the Dayton peace accord.
Karadzic has been indicted by the United Nations war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia on charges of committing genocide and crimes against humanity during the 1992-95 war, notably during the siege of Sarajevo and the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, Europe’s worst single atrocity since World War II.
On Sunday SFOR seized documents, handguns and ammunition at a house occupied by Karadzic’s wife, Ljiljana, and daughter, Sonja, and detained two people suspected “to have assisted and supported persons indicted for war crimes”, Brock said.
“They are still being questioned,” he added, said declining to confirm local media reports that one of the detainees was Dusan Tesic, a former member of the Bosnian Serb special police.
“We are likely to complete the operation today,” he added without elaborating.
Karadzic is still seen as a hero among many in the Republika Srpska, the post-war entity which makes up Bosnia along with the Muslim-Croat Federation.
Over the past two years SFOR has conducted a series of failed operations to track him down in the remote eastern village of Celebici near the border with Serbia and Montenegro.
SFOR earlier said it had clear evidence that Karadzic had contacted his family and his inner support network.
But his wife denied on Sunday she had been in contact with her husband and complained about the detailed search of her home.
“Do they think Radovan Karadzic is hiding like some Saddam Hussein?” she said in a reference to the Iraqi leader, who was found by US troops last month hiding in a hole under a farmhouse near his hometown of Tikrit. - AFP
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