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War Crimes Suspect Killed in Bosnia

October 13, 2000

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) _ A war crimes suspect trying to evade arrest in Bosnia detonated a hand grenade that killed him and wounded four NATO troops, NATO and the U.N. war crimes tribunal said Friday.

NATO-led troops tried to arrest Janko Janjic, 43, just before midnight Thursday in the house of his brother in the Serb-held town of Foca, 25 miles southeast of Sarajevo, at the border of Montenegro, said Bosnian Serb police spokesman Zoran Glusac.

The town is in the area of responsibility of German troops. German Defense Ministry spokesman Lt. Joachim Cholin said the four injured in the arrest were specially trained German soldiers. Two were lightly injured, one sustained medium injuries and another serious, but none were in critical condition.

He would not say if soldiers from any other countries participated in the operation. But he confirmed that there were no deaths among the NATO troops.

German Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping said Janjic set off a hand grenade during the arrest and was severely injured in the blast, dying shortly afterward. Police spokesman Glusac said two explosions were heard and that one of Janjic’s relatives also was wounded.

Scharping said the soldiers did not fire their weapons during the arrest attempt.

It was the first time troops belonging to the NATO force, dispatched to the former Yugoslav territory after the 1995 Dayton Agreement, had suffered injuries making an arrest on behalf of the tribunal.

A statement from the tribunal’s chief war crimes prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, commended the courage of the troops and said ``we share a sense of regret that the attempt ended in tragedy.″ The tribunal is based at The Hague.

According to a 1996 indictment, Janjic was responsible for running the Buk Bijela detention center where ``women were interrogated and sexually assaulted throughout July 1992.″ The NATO statement said he was wanted for crimes committed during a 10-month period until February 1993, the height of the Bosnian war.

Janjic, a prewar car mechanic, became one of the subcommanders of the Serb military police and a paramilitary leader in Foca. He was involved in the attack on Foca and its surrounding villages and the arrest of civilians.

Janjic’s sister-in-law, Nada Janjic, was arrested Thursday but later released, said Glusac.

Scharping said Germany would not be deterred by the abortive arrest from fulfilling future tasks for the tribunal. The tribunal has no enforcement arm of its own and must rely on the NATO troops to bring in indicted criminals for extradition to The Hague for trial.

``The pursuit of war crimes suspects and further cooperation with the War Crimes Tribunal remains essential in the future,″ said Scharping.

NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson also pledged continued efforts to arrest suspects. ``NATO deeply regrets the loss of life,″ in the operation, he said. ``NATO is committed to arresting indicted war criminals and delivering them to The Hague.″

Del Ponte’s spokesman Paul Risley said Janjic had vowed in the past not to surrender alive and had threatened journalists with a hand grenade.

``We recognize that the application of justice to a region that is still not at peace continues to be a dangerous business,″ said Del Ponte’s statement. ``The events of last night only underscore the necessity that those who are publicly accused must voluntarily surrendered at the earliest possible date.″

Update hourly