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Bosnia War Crimes Suspects Arrested

September 6, 2000

ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) _ Police arrested two Croat men suspected of belonging to a group that waged a killing spree in a Bosnian Muslim village in 1993 during Bosnia’s war, an interior ministry official said Wednesday.

The two men, Ante Sliskovic and Tomo Vlajic, were found hiding in the central Adriatic city of Zadar and were immediately arrested, said police spokesman Ivan Bilic.

State-run television reported that a third suspect, Vlado Cosic, also was tracked down by police but managed to escape.

The arrest of the two men may help vindicate a Bosnian Croat army general who was convicted by the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, earlier this year for taking part in the killings in Ahmici, a village in central Bosnia.

It is widely believed that Gen. Tihomir Blaskic, who was sentenced to 45 years in prison for ordering the ethnic purges that left hundreds of Muslim civilians dead, was framed by top Croat political officials.

One-time allies against Bosnian Serbs, Bosnia’s Croats and Muslims turned against each other in 1993 and fought a yearlong war for territory.

Many political analysts believe the conflict was ignited by secret plans by Franjo Tudjman, the late authoritarian president of Croatia, and his nationalist party, then in power, to carve out territory for Bosnian Croats and join it with Croatia proper.

Croatian media have speculated that Tudjman’s government tried to use Blaskic as a scapegoat to cover up a separate chain of command that existed between certain soldiers or units and often functioned above the heads of military leaders.

Police had been searching for the three suspects since March, when Croatia’s new reformist government discovered documents in Tudjman’s archives that indicated a conspiracy between Tudjman’s government and the group to disguise events related to the Ahmici slaughter.

The documents are said to link the group, which was given secret identities by the state intelligence bureau, directly to war crimes.

Blaskic’s defense attorney, Ante Nobilo, said Wednesday the arrests could mean a breakthrough in his upcoming appeal before the tribunal in The Hague.

``The arrests can lead to Blaskic’s vindication if the true background and true order-issuing authorities are established,″ he said.

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