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Peacekeepers Hunt for Top Bosnian-Serb War Crimes Suspect - 2004-01-11

NATO-led peacekeepers in Bosnia-Herzegovina have been conducting a manhunt for one of the most-wanted war crimes suspects. Hundreds of NATO forces spent the weekend searching for Radovan Karadzic, the former Bosnian-Serb president, linked to Europe's bloodiest massacre since World War II.

NATO officials say the intense two-day search was a massive attempt to locate the fugitive who has been hiding for seven years to avoid prosecution by the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

NATO Spokesman Lieutenant Matthew Brock told reporters that peacekeepers searched the Karadzic house. The officer said Mr. Karadzic's wife, Ljiljana, was "co-operative" and accompanied the soldiers during their search.

NATO has been criticized by the U.N. tribunal for failing to capture Mr. Karadzic and hand him over.

U.N. prosecutors have linked Mr. Karadzic to a massacre in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica in the summer of 1995. Up to 8,000 Muslim men and boys are believed to have been killed by Serb forces who overran the town, after Dutch U.N. forces were forced to abandon the enclave they were supposed to protect.

Survivors have launched a multi-million-dollar lawsuit against The Netherlands. They say it failed to prevent what has been described as Europe's worst single atrocity since World War II.

Peacekeepers began their latest search for Mr. Karadzic on Saturday in the eastern town of Pale, about 16 kilometers east of the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo.

Pale was the seat of the Bosnian-Serb government during the 1992-1995 war, which pitted the country's Muslims, Croats and Serbs against each other, and resulted in the deaths of an estimated quarter-million people.

The NATO spokesman said the troops were also searching for another most-wanted suspect, Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb wartime military commander.

U.N. prosecutors have suggested that General Mladic may be hiding in Serbia, with the backing of the Serbian army and authorities. Belgrade denies the charge.

Peacekeepers and local police, apparently operating on information that Mr. Karadzic might have been injured, searched all medical facilities in Pale. They also set up checkpoints and searched vehicles.

There have been many fruitless searches for the two fugitives, who still have a large following among nationalists who view the U.N. tribunal as biased against Serbs.