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Two Nabbed in Serb Assassination Probe

March 18, 2003

BELGRADE, Serbia-Montenegro (AP) _ Police arrested two suspects and seized weapons in the home of a slain underworld boss during the manhunt for the assassins of the Serbian prime minister, the government announced Tuesday.

Dragan Ninkovic and Zoran Vukojevic, two key members of an underworld clan blamed for Zoran Djindjic’s assassination last week, were arrested late Monday.

In a statement, the government described Ninkovic as the leader of a Serbian drug cartel and Vukojevic as a former policeman-turned-criminal. It did not say what role the two were suspected of having played in the assassination.

``Both suspects attempted to resist arrest and to escape, but special police teams apprehended them,″ it said.

Zoran Zivkovic, a close Djindjic’s ally nominated to succeed him as prime minister, told parliament Tuesday that over 750 people had been arrested since last Wednesday in the police sweep.

He told the session, which is to vote on his nomination later Tuesday, that ``a large quantity of arms and explosives″ were discovered during the arrests.

The government said investigators found weapons hidden in a concrete bunker in Monday’s raid on the home of a slain underworld boss, Zeljko Raznatovic, nicknamed Arkan. His widow Svetlana Raznatovic, known as Ceca, was arrested for sheltering key suspects sought in Djindjic’s killing.

``During (Svetlana) Raznatovic’s arrest, police discovered more than 20 pistols and revolvers, five ammunition crates with 5,000 rounds, machine gun silencers, dozens of truncheons and handcuffs and 86 other items of unlicensed military and police equipment,″ the statement said.

Arkan, Serbia’s most prominent warlord who led paramilitary forces blamed for atrocities during the Balkan wars of the 1990s, was indicted by the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands. He was assassinated in 2000.

Authorities have blamed the underworld Zemun Clan, named after a Belgrade suburb, of being behind Djindjic’s assassination. The group’s main leaders, Milorad Lukovic, a paramilitary commander, Dusan Spasojevic and Dejan Milenkovic remain at large.

The arrests followed the declaration of a state of emergency allowing police to detain suspects for 30 days without charges.

Djindjic was the key figure in toppling of former President Slobodan Milosevic in a popular uprising in 2000. He engineered the former president’s handover to U.N. war crimes court in 2001. That, along with his pro-Western stance and a recent declaration of crackdown on organized crime, made him many enemies.