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NATO Troops Raid Karadzic's Home - 2002-07-02

NATO troops in Bosnia have ransacked the family home of war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic in an apparent search for clues as to the whereabouts of the Bosnian Serb war time leader. The NATO military command in Bosnia says it was seeking to disrupt what it called an illegal smuggling network, but the operation may have had another motive.

The incursion came before dawn. More than 30 troops belonging to NATO's Stabilization Force in Bosnia, known as SFOR, broke into the Karadzic home in Pale, the Bosnian Serb war time capital, and turned it upside down in a thorough search.

SFOR says the troops found forged documents and a small number of firearms. Mr. Karadzic's wife and a caretaker at the house say the soldiers also broke furniture and smashed the glass in picture frames and took away videotapes and floppy disks from computers. Mrs. Karadzic accuses SFOR of intimidation.

SFOR says its operation was not aimed at finding and detaining Mr. Karadzic but at smashing smuggling rings. But a NATO official at alliance headquarters in Brussels says the real purpose of the raid may have been to signal that NATO's mission in Bosnia, which includes capturing war crimes suspects, has not been affected by a U.S. threat to close down the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the troubled country.

The United States on Sunday said it would veto extending the U.N. presence in Bosnia unless the U.N. Security Council exempts U.S. troops serving in peacekeeping missions from prosecution by the new International Criminal Court.

NATO said on Monday that SFOR is not affected by the U.S. threat because it derives its mandate from the 1995 Dayton peace accords that ended the Bosnian war. But if the U.N. mandate is not renewed by Thursday, German forces in SFOR may no longer have the necessary legal basis their country requires for stationing troops beyond its borders.

SFOR has been fiercely criticized, most notably by Carla del Ponte - the chief prosecutor of the U.N. war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia - for not doing enough to capture Mr. Karadzic, the court's most wanted man. He and his top general, Ratko Mladic, are charged with genocide for the siege of Sarajevo and the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.

Earlier this year, SFOR conducted two raids in a remote area of eastern Bosnia in a search for the fugitive former leader of the Bosnian Serbs but came up with nothing.

Mrs. Karadzic says her husband has told her he will never surrender.