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Bosnian War Crimes Suspect Held

December 2, 1998

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) _ U.S. troops on Wednesday arrested the highest-ranking Serb military officer seized so far in the effort to bring to trial Bosnians who are accused of war crimes.

Radislav Krstic, a general, is accused of taking part, both personally and through his troops, in the massacre of thousands of Muslims after Bosnian Serbs took over the U.N. safe haven of Srebrenica in eastern Bosnia in July 1995.

He was indicted in October by the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal, which charged him with genocide, crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of civilians during war. The indictment was secret so he wouldn’t be prompted to flee.

Krstic was arrested in a section of northern Bosnia controlled by U.S. troops serving in NATO’s Stabilization Force, better known as SFOR. A spokeswoman, Maj. Sheena Thomson, said Krstic was arrested without incident at noon.

The chief prosecutor of the tribunal, Louise Arbour of Canada, called Krstic ``a very significant military leader″ and said his arrest was important to the tribunal’s ability to continue to do its job. Krstic is the most senior officer seized so far for trial before the U.N. tribunal in The Hague.

Amor Masovic, the head of the Bosnian Muslim commission for people missing in the war, said he expected the arrest to shed light on the fate of more than 8,000 people missing in the Srebrenica region.

Muslim leaders in Bosnia expressed hope NATO would now focus on apprehending the key architects of the war, former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his wartime military chief Gen. Ratko Mladic.

``We welcome this arrest and particularly the fact that they have started arresting generals,″ said Mirza Hajric, adviser to Bosnian Muslim member of the country’s joint presidency, Alija Izetbegovic.

``We hope they will soon switch over to commanders,″ Hajric said.

He added the arrest ``could serve as a good example for the French troops who have not yet arrested anybody.″ Bosnian Muslims say Karadzic and Mladic are living in the part of the country under French control.

Bosnian Serbs criticized Krstic’s secret indictment. Petar Djokic, president of the Bosnian Serb parliament, said it ``brings uncertainty to people, a feeling that every citizen of Republika Srpska can be regarded as a potential war criminal in the eyes of the tribunal, and that SFOR is authorized to arrest anybody, anytime, anywhere.″ Republika Srpska is the Serb entity within Bosnia.

Krstic was the commander of the 5th Corps of the Bosnian Serb Army. He is believed to be a close associate of Karadzic and Mladic, who have been indicted for genocide for allegedly masterminding the massacre of Muslims at Srebrenica.

``Persons indicted for war crimes who are still at large should realize they, too, will be brought to justice,″ NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said Wednesday after the arrest.

Krstic is the ninth war crimes suspect to be arrested in the former Yugoslavia by international forces. He was named head of the Drina Corps of the Bosnian Serb Army in 1995 after the fall of Srebrenica.

The last reported sighting of Krstic was at a joint military exercise of the Yugoslav National Army and the Bosnian Serb military in Manjaca, near Banja Luka, in October. SFOR banned his 5th Corps from taking part in the exercise, but let him monitor it.

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