Nato troops today failed in an apparent attempt to arrest former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic after converging on a building in Pale, the stronghold of the world’s top war crimes suspect at large, amid bursts of gunfire and an explosion.
“We did not locate the person we were looking for,” said Captain Dave Sullivan of Canada, a spokesman for Bosnia’s Nato-led peacekeepers, speaking hours after the start of the pre-dawn raid.
While he did not name the suspect, it appeared clear that the sweep had been a renewed attempt to capture Karadzic, indicted by the UN tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, on suspicion of war crimes. Pale was the headquarters of Karadzic during the Bosnian war – Europe’s worst bloodshed since the Second World War.
Capt Sullivan refused to go into details beyond saying that British, US and other international troops were involved in an “operation regarding persons indicted for war-crimes”.
An international official nonetheless suggested the raid was directed at Karadzic, telling the AP: “You know who was and is in Pale, and what Pale is about.”
About 100 residents – some angry, others confused – gathered around the area, cordoned off by peacekeepers with white tape in the centre of Pale. Bursts of machine-gun fire were heard along with an explosion. Helicopters landed and took off with two people on stretchers on board.
A local policeman said two Bosnian Serbs were killed but offered no details. There was no immediate confirmation.
Local police and British peacekeepers surrounded the building, said to be the home of three Serb Orthodox priests. The crowd later dispersed.
The operation appeared to be the latest in a series of unsuccessful Nato attempts to arrest Karadzic, said to be on the run inside the Bosnian Serb half of Bosnia.
The indictment against Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, his fugitive wartime general, accuses them of being “criminally responsible for the unlawful confinement, murder, rape, sexual assault, torture, beating, robbery and inhumane treatment of civilians”.
Among actions the two are accused of masterminding is the massacre of more than 6,000 Muslims in Srebrenica, which came to be known as Europe’s worst slaughter of civilians since the Second World War. The indictment described the 1995 Srebrenica killings by Bosnian Serb troops as “truly scenes from hell, written on the darkest pages of human history”.