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Tribunal Issues International Arrest Warrant for Croatian Serb Leader

March 8, 1996

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) _ A war crimes tribunal issued an international arrest warrant today for Croatian Serb leader Milan Martic, indicted for bombing civilians in the Croatian capital last year.

This is the first time the Hague tribunal has sent an arrest warrant to NATO-led peace forces in Bosnia as well as to U.N. member nations, tribunal presiding judge Claude Jorda, of France, said.

But actually detaining Martic, now living in the Bosnian Serb stronghold of Banja Luka, will depend on the willingness and ability of NATO-led forces. NATO has said it could detain indicted war criminals its soldiers came across, depending on potential risks. So far, NATO has made no arrests.

Separately, Serbian police arrested a second person _ a Bosnian Serb soldier _ in connection with the mass murder of civilians in the eastern Bosnian Muslim enclave of Srebrenica, the official Yugoslav news agency said Thursday.

Drazen Erdemovic, 25, was the first person arrested in connection with the atrocities that followed the Bosnian Serb onslaught on Srebrenica in July, when thousands of Muslim men disappeared. It is suspected they were slain by Serb forces and buried in mass graves.

Bosnian Serb soldier Radoslav Kremenovic was arrested on March 2 for hiding Erdemovic. Richard Goldstone, chief prosecutor of the tribunal, asked that both men be sent to the Hague for questioning.

Prosecutors will meet Yugoslav government officials next week to discuss the case, Goldstone said. Serb-led Yugoslavia does not recognize the U.N. tribunal and has said it will try war criminals at home.

An ABC_TV reporter says Erdemovic told her how he and other soldiers, many of them drunk, slaughtered more than 100 men and boys from Srebrenica.

The massacre, at a farm, went on for more than five hours, the reporter quoted Erdemovic as saying. Afterward, he went to a nearby village where he saw Serb soldiers throwing hand grenades into a building where Muslim men were held, reporter Vanessa Vasic-Janekovic said.

She said she had recorded the interview but Serb authorities seized the videotape.

Martic is the former president of the self-styled Republic of Serbian Krajina, carved out of Croatia after fighting in 1991. The Croatian government recaptured the territory in May.

He has admitted ordering the bombing of Zagreb in May, and says the attack was meant to protect Croatian Serbs fleeing a Croat army offensive. But the U.N. tribunal, appointed to prosecute war crimes in the former Yugoslavia, says all the victims were civilians _ and international law forbids attacks on civilians under any circumstances.

``In respect of its accuracy and striking force, the use of the Orkan rocket in this case was not designed to hit military targets, but to terrorize the civilians of Zagreb,″ Jorda said.

Tribunal judges heard prosecution arguments for the arrest warrant last week. The tribunal called the hearing after Serb and Croat authorities failed to arrest Martic, indicted by the tribunal two months after the attack.

Prosecutors said Martic ordered two rockets loaded with cluster bombs fired on Zagreb after the Croatian army started driving Croatian Serbs into Bosnia.

The cluster bombs exploded in downtown Zagreb, spraying a hail of steel shot wherever they landed. The shrapnel hit a high school, children’s hospital and the Croatian National dance academy.

``The shelling of Zagreb was ... a terror retaliation and it was unlawful,″ Swedish prosecutor Eric Ostberg charged at last week’s presentation of evidence.

In a defiant interview with Associated Press Television just days before the hearing, Martic was unrepentant. ``I really did order the bombing of Zagreb ... and I will never deny it,″ the former traffic policeman told APTV.

Of the 53 suspects indicted by the U.N. tribunal, only two are in custody. Both are Bosnian Serbs.

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