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NATO Forces Step Up Search for Bosnian Serb War Crimes Suspect - 2002-08-15


NATO-led troops in Bosnia-Herzegovina are stepping up their campaign to hunt down war crimes suspect Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic.

The NATO-led Stabilization Force (SFOR) sent troops, backed by helicopters, to the border with Montenegro for a second day Thursday, searching for Mr. Karadzic or those who may be helping him avoid capture.

Mr. Karadzic is believed to have a considerable support network that NATO officials say they want to crush. Mr. Karadzic and his wartime military advisor, General Ratko Mladic, have been in hiding since 1996, despite international calls to surrender to the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal to face charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.

Both men have been linked to the murder of some 8,000 Muslims in 1995, when Serb forces overran the Bosnian town of Srebrenica. It was the bloodiest atrocity of the conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the worst massacre in Europe since World War II. Residents in the Bosnian village of Celebici told reporters that American, French and German troops set up checkpoints in the area. They said dozens of armored personnel carriers were also patrolling near the mountainous border with Montenegro.

It is the same location where NATO forces tried unsuccessfully to catch Mr. Karadzic earlier this year. Mr. Karadzic is believed to travel through the remote regions of eastern Bosnia and the Yugoslav republic of Montenegro, where he was born.

Both U.N. and NATO officials believe villagers are giving him shelter. In addition, the Bosnian Serb authorities have been accused of not doing enough to arrest him.

The United States has offered millions of dollars in rewards for information leading to the arrest of Mr. Karadzic and his former military chief, General Mladic.

While NATO officials have denied that the current operation is necessarily focused on his arrest, U.N. prosecutors have pressured SFOR to do more to arrest one of their most wanted suspects.

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