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Karadzic Lived in Belgrade Under False Identity


Serbia says war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic avoided capture for some 13 years by living under a false identity in the Serbian capital Belgrade and practicing alternative medicine. Stefan Bos reports for VOA from Budapest.

People in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, many of whom lived through the Balkan conflict, have celebrated the arrest of one of the world's most wanted war crimes suspects, Radovan Karadzic.

The former leader of Bosnian Serbs had been in hiding since 1995, when he allegedly oversaw the massacre of up to 8,000 Muslim men and boys.

Europe's worst single atrocity since World War II took place after Serb forces under his control overran the Bosnian town of Srebrenica. Prosecutors say it was part of a plan to carry out ethnic cleansing and bring Muslim areas under Serbian control.

Karadzic was charged by the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal with genocide and and a number of other crimes against humanity for these and other atrocities.

Until Monday, Karadzic, who was a trained psychiatrist, managed to escape capture by living under a false name and hiding his face behind a white long beard. So convincing was his false identity, Serbian officials say, he had moved freely in public without being recognized.

He practiced alternative medicine at a private clinic and lived in Belgrade, says Serbia's minister for UN Tribunal relations, Rasim Ljajic. "Karadzic used a false identity and a false document. He used the name Dragan Dabic. He worked in a private practices. And the last place where he had a residence was in New Belgrade."

Karadzic's detention has been welcomed by the European Union, United Nations and the United States.

Washington's former Balkan peace negotiator, Richard Holbrooke, said in televised remarks that his arrest can be compared with the search for Osama bin Laden, the alleged mastermind of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks against the United States. "Karadzic was of all the bad men in the Balkans, he was the one I personally thought was the worst. I don't think there is anyone on earth other than bin Laden who is better to capture than this guy," he said.

Karadzic's war time commander Ratko Mladic, who tops the most-wanted list, remains at large, although Western and Serbian officials suggests his days at large are now numbered.

Bosnian President Haris Silajdzic has told reporters it will take time before the wounds are healed of the Balkan's recent history and his country can become a multi-ethnic society. "For justice to be complete we must erase the consequences of this genocide in Bosnia. [Former Serbian President] Milosevic's and Karadic's projects still live on in Bosnia," he said.

But survivors of the Srebrenica massacre say Karadzic's arrest will help them to grieve over the loss of those they loved with more peace in their heart, as justice may finally be done.

A Serbian judge has ordered Karadzic's transfer to the UN war crimes court in The Hague, but his lawyer has said he will appeal against that ruling within the next three days.

Karadzic's supporters staged a noisy protest in Belgrade, skirmishing with police and denouncing the pro-Western Serbian government as "traitors."