By Chris Stephen
Tuesday, December 21, 1999
NATO troops yesterday arrested the last of the "big three" Serb army commanders of the Bosnian war in an early morning swoop.
The event's significance belied the simplicity of the arrest, in which retired Gen Stanislav Galic was snatched while driving in the centre of the main Serb town, Banja Luka, apparently on his way to work, at 7.45 a.m.
NATO troops used civilian cars to box him in, then soldiers smashed one of his car windows, opened the door, dragged him out and threw him into an army jeep.
The seizure follows arrests earlier this year of Gen Radislav Krshic, accused of ordering the worst massacre of the war, of 7,000 Muslims at Srebrenica, and of the current chief of the Serb army, Gen Momir Talic.
War crimes officials said the net was closing on the most important suspects of all, the former president, Dr Radovan Karadzic, and the former army commander, Gen Momcilo Mladic, both still at large.
"We now have the three commanders of the area occupied by the Bosnian Serbs," said a spokesman for the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia, Mr Paul Risley, in The Hague.
Gen Galic (56) was commander of the Romanija Corps, the Serb army unit named after the mountain where it was deployed, which laid siege to Sarajevo. In a four-year bombardment a total of 11,000 people, mostly civilians, were killed and much of the city destroyed.
He is to be formally charged later this week with crimes against the laws of war and crimes against humanity.
Gen Galic's apparent casualness - driving in a town full of NATO troops - was apparently because he did not feel himself at risk because he was not one of the 78 officially accused by The Hague. Instead, The Hague confirmed he was one of several people who are on secret "sealed" indictments.
Gen Galic had retired from the army, and is currently an adviser to the former Bosnian Serb president, Mr Nicholae Poplasen, who was kicked out of office by international officials earlier this year after being accused of obstructing reconciliation moves between Croats, Muslims and Serbs.
The Galic arrest comes with the new Hague prosecutor, Mr Carla del Ponte, anxious to show his office has lost none of the "teeth" of his predecessor, Ms Louise Arbours whose SAS units have performed the majority of the 14 war crimes arrests in Bosnia over the last three years.
As important as the arrest itself is the reaction of Bosnia's Serbs.
There was no sign of riots or unrest. Ordinary Bosnian Serbs are no friends of NATO, but are equally disenchanted with their former leaders who they saw grow rich on the black market while the population as a whole was impoverished.
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