War crimes fugitive Mladic held

General Ratko Mladic, Europe’s most wanted war crimes fugitive, has been arrested in Serbia, the country’s president said today.

Mladic has been on the run since 1995 when he was indicted by the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, for genocide in the slaughter of some 8,000 Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica and other crimes committed by his troops during Bosnia’s 1992-95 war.

“On behalf of the Republic of Serbia we announce that Ratko Mladic has been arrested,” Boris Tadic told reporters in Belgrade.

He said the arrest was made by the Serbian Security Intelligence Agency.

Mladic will be extradited to the UN war crimes tribunal, he said. He did not specify when, but said “an extradition process is underway”.

“We ended a difficult period of our history and removed the stain from the face of the members of our nation wherever they live,” he said.

Serbia has been under intense pressure to make the arrest, with the chief UN war crimes prosecutor, Serge Brammertz, complaining earlier this month that authorities were not doing enough to capture him and other war crimes fugitives.

Brammertz was scheduled to report next month to the UN Security Council about the Balkan country’s efforts.

Brammertz’s regular reports on Serbia’s compliance are crucial for the Balkan country’s efforts to become an European Union member candidate. The EU has said Serbia’s membership bid depends on the arrest.

Prosecutors have said they believed he was hiding in Serbia under the protection of hardliners who consider him a hero. Mladic was last seen in Belgrade in 2006.

Croatian media, which first broke the story, said police there got confirmation from their Serbian colleagues that DNA analysis confirmed Mladic’s identity. Belgrade’s B92 radio said Mladic was arrested today in a village close to the northern Serbian town of Zrenjanin.

In Brussels, Nato Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen hailed the arrest, saying that almost 16 years since Mladic’s indictment for genocide “his arrest finally offers a chance for justice to be done”.

Tens of thousands of Nato troops were deployed to Bosnia in 1995 to safeguard a US-sponsored peace agreement between that nations’ warring factions. They have since been withdrawn and replaced by a much smaller European Union force.

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