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US Offers $5M for Information on Ex-Bosnian Serb Leaders

The U.S. State Department has distributed posters in Bosnia's capital, Sarajevo, offering a reward for information that will lead to the capture of former Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic. The development comes at a time when the NATO-led peacekeepers are under pressure to find the two men, who are indicted for war crimes by the United Nations Tribunal in the Hague.

The U.S. posters offer informants up to $5 million if their help leads to the capture of former Bosnian Serb President Radovan Karadzic and his war time military chief General Ratko Mladic. American diplomats say the poster campaign is part of the "Rewards for Justice" program to combat international terrorism.

The posters list a phone number and an e-mail address and pictures of the two men. Some observers say the pictures are not as flattering as those found on calendars and populist photos that are still sold in the streets of Belgrade and other Balkan capitals.

Former President Karadzic and General Mladic have been indicted by the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague for their alleged role in atrocities committed during Europe's bloodiest conflict since World War II. The charges include acts of genocide, such as their alleged involvement in the killings of up to 8,000 Muslim boys and men in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica in July 1995.

That massacre, which only recently was shown on Yugoslavia's state-run television, became one of the symbols of what became known as ethnic cleansing during the Balkan wars, in which hundreds of thousands of people died.

Yet, Mr. Karadzic and Mr. Mladic are still seen by many Serbs as wartime heroes and Serbian patriots. For example, 37-year-old Nekoli Stefan even sells their pictures to an interested public in Belgrade.

"This is the portrait of the general who defeated the West in Bosnia," Mr. Stefan said as he shows customers one of his pictures. "That is why Americans want to get him. They want to take them out of the country. General Ratko Mladic and Mr. Karadzic were Serbian heroes."

That view seems to be shared within the Yugoslav Army, which analysts say will make it more difficult for the NATO-led peacekeepers to capture both men. General Mladic has been seen in Belgrade, and there have been reports from U.N. chief war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte and others that the army is discretely protecting him in or near the Yugoslav capital.

Mr. Karadzic is believed to have moved around in Bosnia's Serb entity, Republika Srpska, and is now thought to be in hiding somewhere in the remote, snow-covered mountains in the east, surrounded by heavily armed bodyguards.

Despite these difficulties, the estimated 18,000 NATO-led peacekeepers in Bosnia Herzegovina have come under pressure from U.N. prosecutors to arrest both men, who are also seen as crucial in the coming trial of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

Recent media reports that both men were captured by American forces proved to be unfounded. However, local media say American forces have begun a manhunt to find both men, apparently using experience gained in the war against terrorism in the mountainous terrain of Afghanistan.