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Kosovo War Crimes Suspect Arrested - 2003-02-19

Slovenian authorities say police have arrested a prominent ethnic-Albanian war crimes suspect from Kosovo. The arrest followed the detention by NATO-led peacekeeping forces of three ethnic-Albanian suspects indicted by the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague.

Slovenian police spokesman Miran Koren told reporters that his officers arrested Fatmir Limaj late Tuesday near the border with Italy and Austria.

This marked the first time that Slovenia, a tiny former Yugoslav republic, has been involved in handing over a suspect to the war crimes court.

The 32-year-old Mr. Limaj is wanted in connection with the torture and killings of Serbian and Albanian prisoners during the ethnic conflict in Kosovo in the late 1990s. At that time, he was reportedly a high-ranking member of the Kosovo Liberation Army, the KLA.

Mr. Limaj, who is currently a deputy in Kosovo's parliament, is among the first four ethnic Albanians to be indicted by the Hague tribunal. His arrest came shortly after U.N. Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte criticized NATO-led troops in Kosovo for allowing Mr. Limaj, described as the most important of the four suspects, to leave the country on an alleged business trip.

The three others, identified as Haradin Bala, Isak Musliu and Agim Murtez, were detained Monday by the peacekeepers in Kosovo.

The U.N. court has targeted mainly ethnic Serbs, including former president Slobodan Milosevic, for their alleged roles in the Balkan atrocities of the 1990s. This has drawn accusations of bias from some officials in Belgrade.

Although under U.N. control since mid-1999, the province of Kosovo is officially part of Serbia, the main former Yugoslav republic.

Serbia recently formed a new country with Montenegro and buried what remained of the Yugoslav federation after a decade of disintegration and fighting in which more than 200,000 people are believed to have died.