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Bosnian Muslim Wartime Commander Transferred to The Hague - 2003-04-12


A Bosnian Muslim wartime commander has been arrested by NATO-led peacekeeping forces and handed over to the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague, where he is indicted for war crimes against Serbs in 1992 and 1993. Naser Oric is viewed by many Bosnian Muslims as a hero for his defense of the Muslim enclave of Srebrenica, which was besieged by Serbs for two years before being overrun.

Mr. Oric was secretly indicted, setting the stage for his arrest. The NATO-led Bosnia Stabilization Force seized him Thursday at his home in the northern city of Tuzla, and transferred him to a United Nations detention center near The Hague Friday morning.

Mr. Oric is accused of war crimes against Serbs in 1992 and 1993. The Hague indictment alleges that he and his forces took part in the torture and beating of Serb prisoners and the plundering of mostly Serb towns and hamlets. Serbs blame Mr. Oric and his forces for killing many Serb civilians during the raids.

NATO Secretary-General George Robertson hailed the action as another step in the alliance's drive to detain the remaining indicted war crimes suspects in the region

Mr. Oric is a key figure to Bosnian Muslims, who consider him a hero for his defense of the Muslim enclave of Srebrenica during the Serb siege. In July 1995, Serb forces executed as many as 8,000 Muslim men and boys.

Several Bosnian Serbs have been indicted for that crime, including wartime leader Radovan Karadzic. Mr. Oric's arrest prompted anger among some Bosnian Muslims, because key Serb suspects remain at large.

The United Nations tribunal for the former Yugoslavia was set up to prosecute those responsible for war crimes during the bloody ethnic violence in the Balkans.

Dozens of other suspects are currently involved in proceedings at the court, including former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.