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NATO Arrests Bosnian-Serb Colonel for War Crimes - 2001-08-10

NATO-led peacekeepers have arrested a Bosnian-Serb army colonel who is accused of committing war crimes during the 1992 to 1995 war in Bosnia. The colonel, Vidoje Blagojevic, is likely to be extradited soon to the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

Officials of the Serb republic in Bosnia-Herzegovina say Colonel Blagojevic was arrested near Banja Luka. Army officials say he was detained by British troops serving with the 20,000-strong NATO peacekeeping force.

From 1992 to 1995, the years of the Bosnian war, Colonel Blagojevic was the head of an engineering section of the Bosnian-Serb army's Drina unit. The Drina troops are blamed for atrocities in the U.N. safe zone of Srebrenica, where up to 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed after Bosnian-Serb forces captured the town in July 1995.

Colonel Blagojevic is believed to have been charged under a sealed indictment from the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague for crimes related to these atrocities, which have been described as Europe's worst massacre since World War II.

His arrest came one week after a 53-year-old former Bosnian-Serb general was found guilty of genocide for his role in the Srebrenica killings.

The Hague Tribunal sentenced Radislav Krstic to 46 years in prison after finding him guilty on eight counts - two of genocide, five of crimes against humanity and one of violations of the laws or customs of war.

It was the first time the Netherlands-based U.N. court found a defendant guilty of genocide. Although the arrest of Colonel Blagojevic is likely to please U.N. prosecutors, several key war crimes suspects remain at large.

The United Nations chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte recently criticized NATO for not doing enough to arrest former Bosnian-Serb President Radovan Karadzic and his military adviser, Ratko Mladic. Both men are believed to be hiding somewhere in the Bosnian Serb republic, protected by heavily armed bodyguards.

International officials claim that at least 15 publicly indicted suspects are hiding in Republic Srpska. Local authorities say they don't know where these people are.