Nato led peacekeepers scaled back their search for Bosnian war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic today after an intense three day hunt for the fugitive leader turned up documents the alliance is examining for clues to his whereabouts.
Dozens of peacekeepers and police officers remained at checkpoints in Karadzic’s one-time stronghold of Pale, days after troops acted on a tip that he was hiding there and possibly in need of medical care.
Troops searched a clinic, a church and homes, but did not find the former Bosnian Serb president.
“The operation is ongoing, but we’ve reduced our troops and are no longer searching houses,” said Lieutenant Matthew Brock, a spokesman for the alliance in Bosnia.
In addition to documents that Nato says may offer clues to his whereabouts, the alliance seized an undisclosed amount of weapons and ammunition from the Karadzic home.
Residents of Pale expressed disdain over the operation and offered sympathy to Karadzic’s family.
The anger of other observers was fuelled by local TV footage showing peacekeepers laughing, talking on mobile phones and leisurely walking around while cameras followed them.
“This was just a fun show for the public and a circus – they will never arrest Karadzic,” said Amor Masovic, who heads the Muslim Commission for Missing Persons.
Nato rejected such charges. Brock said the alliance takes ”all their operations seriously,” and that “this was not a show, but based on credible information given to the Bosnian Serb authorities and the peacekeeping force.”
“We are right now analysing all the information collected over the weekend,” Brock said, declining to say whether they had found anything useful.
Troops detained two men yesterday who may be linked to Karadzic. One, identified by eyewitnesses as Bata Tesic, was a former member of the Bosnian Serb special police and is widely believed to be a member of Karadzic’s inner circle.
The operation was the largest joint operation between the Bosnian Serb authorities and peacekeepers during the last 18 months, Brock said. Bosnian Serb authorities have been reluctant in the past to help hunt for Karadzic, who is widely supported in the Serb half of the country.
Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, his military commander General Ratko Mladic, have been indicted for genocide and war crimes, including the 1995 slaughter of up to 8,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica.
Pale was the seat of the Bosnian Serb government during the 1992-95 war, which pitted Bosnia’s Muslims, Croats and Serbs against each other.