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Serbian Authorities Arrest Suspects in Djindjic Assassination - 2003-03-16


Authorities in Serbia say they have arrested one of the leaders of a criminal gang suspected in the assassination of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic. Authorities have made nearly 200 arrests in the case.

The Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs confirmed that security forces arrested Mladjan Micic, known as "the rat," along with six other people in a village about 70 kilometers from Belgrade.

Mr. Micic is described by police as a key leader of the Zemun crime gang, named after a Belgrade suburb. The gang has been linked to the assassination of Prime Minister Djindjic.

Ministry officials said police raided apartments that the gang members had been using as a hideout, and confiscated illegal weapons and ammunition, vehicle registration plates and several cars. They also began demolishing the headquarters of the gang in Belgrade's Zemun district.

The apparent breakthrough came after about 200 suspects were arrested in a series of raids aimed at finding the killers.

Mr. Djindjic had pledged to fight the crime gangs that flourished under President Slobodan Milosevic, who was ousted after a popular revolt in 2000 and later transferred to the United Nations tribunal in The Hague to face wars crimes charges.

Some authorities believe Mr. Djindjic's anti-crime measures were the main reason why he was killed. He was shot twice in front of the government building and died in a hospital.

However, ministry officials cautioned that the search for other leaders and members of criminal groups would continue.

Serbian media reports say the 42-year-old former Yugoslav interior minister, Zoran Zivkovic, a close ally of Mr. Djindjic, is likely to become the new prime minister. Mr. Djindjic's party leadership nominated him Sunday. Political analysts say this could ease concern among investors and Western diplomats.