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NATO Launches Raid on Former Stronghold of Bosnian-Serb Fugitive - 2004-04-01

NATO says it has launched a night-time raid on the former stronghold of Bosnian-Serb fugitive war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic.

NATO officials say the operation was ongoing early Thursday in the mountainous town of Pale in eastern Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Around forty troops from the NATO-led Stabilization Force (SFOR) fanned out through Pale, and witnesses say gunfire was heard. The force includes American and British soldiers.

At least two civilians were wounded.

In March, Bosnian-Serb police failed to locate Mr. Karadzic despite a large-scale search in eastern Bosnia. Police began the manhunt after receiving a tip the fugitive was near the town of Bratunac and might try to cross the nearby border into Serbia.

NATO-led peacekeepers in Bosnia have tried repeatedly to find Mr. Karadzic, who is believed to have a network of supporters helping him evade capture.

The Bosnian Serb leader and his wartime military chief, General Ratko Mladic, are the two most-wanted war crimes suspects sought by the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague.

Both men have been on the run, since their indictments in 1995 on charges stemming from the 1990s Bosnian war, including the massacre of thousands of Muslim men and boys in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica.

Western governments have criticized the Bosnian Serb government for not arresting Serb war crimes suspects thought to be hiding in its territory. EU and NATO officials say such failures hurt Bosnia's efforts to secure closer ties with the two organizations.

Some information for this report provided by AFP and Reuters.