Key war crimes witness killed in Croatia blast

ZAGREB, Aug 29, 2000 -- (Reuters) A key witness for the UN war crimes tribunal's investigation into atrocities by Croatian troops against local Serbs was killed in an explosion at his home on Monday, state television reported.

Milan Levar was the only Croat so far to testify to the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia about mass executions of Serbs at his hometown of Gospic during Croatia's independence war.

Police have sealed off the house and begun an investigation to determine the nature of the blast in the front yard, the television said. It gave no further details.

Levar, a former Croatian official, helped organize the defense of Gospic against Serbian forces in 1991, when the town was run by military authorities.

Human remains were discovered in Gospic in April by a team of tribunal officials who came to carry out investigations with permission from Zagreb's new pro-European authorities, who ousted the nationalists in January.

The investigators said at the time they were working on "a very precise tip". No indictments have yet been made.

Local war veterans and rightist groups staged a protest during the excavations and Levar told Reuters then that his family was being continuously harassed and his life was at risk.

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