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Serbian Prime Minister Is Assassinated

March 12, 2003

BELGRADE, Serbia-Montenegro (AP) _ Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic _ a key leader of the revolt that toppled former President Slobodan Milosevic in October 2000 _ was assassinated Wednesday by gunmen who ambushed him outside the government complex, police sources said.

Djindjic died of his wounds in a Belgrade hospital after having been shot in the abdomen and back, the sources told The Associated Press. Police arrested two suspects.

The government building where Djindjic was ambushed was sealed off by heavy state security, and three ambulances were parked in front. Police stopped traffic in downtown Belgrade, searching through cars and checking passengers.

Djindjic, 50, appeared to have been targeted last month, when a truck suddenly cut into the lane in which his motorcade was traveling to Belgrade’s airport. The motorcade narrowly avoided a collision, and Djindjic later dismissed the Feb. 21 alleged assassination attempt as a ``futile effort″ that could not stop democratic reforms.

``If someone thinks the law and the reforms can be stopped by eliminating me, then that is a huge delusion,″ Djindjic was quoted as saying by the Politika newspaper at the time.

Djindjic, who spearheaded the popular revolt that toppled Milosevic in October 2000, had many enemies because of his pro-reformist and Western stands. He was key in Milosevic’s extradtion to the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands.

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