Alex TodorovichArkan murder suspect killed in shoot-out
April 30 2000
Belgrade - The man widely believed to have masterminded the murder of Arkan, the notorious Serbian war criminal, has been killed in a dramatic shoot-out during a car chase through the suburbs of Belgrade.
Zoran Uskokovic, known by his nom de guerre of Skole, was in the passenger seat of his car at an intersection in the Yugoslav capital on Thursday afternoon when unknown assailants drew alongside and sprayed the vehicle with bullets.
A fierce gun battle followed, with Skole, 36, returning fire as he was pursued at speed. A witness recorded the screeching of tyres and wild shooting as passers-by scrambled for cover.
The attackers gave chase for half an hour until Skole's driver missed a sharp turn and crashed into a fence. Milos Stevanovic, 22, a police officer on sick leave who was travelling with him, was also killed. The driver, Peter Jokic, was wounded. The attackers' burnt-out car was found on the other side of the city, with Kalashnikov assault rifles still inside.
It was an open secret among members of Belgrade's underworld that Skole's life was in danger as a result of his widely suspected involvement in Arkan's murder in January. Arkan, whose real name was Zeljko Raznatovic, was wanted by the international war crimes tribunal in the Hague for atrocities committed in Bosnia and Croatia by his feared Tigers militia.
In the weeks after the murder, two of Skole's close friends and a former bodyguard of Arkan were killed in what appeared to be revenge killings. Last Monday, Skole survived a bomb attack on his apartment building.
A powerful underworld figure in his own right, Skole owned restaurants in Stockholm and Athens, and was building a hotel in Barcelona. He had once been a friend of Arkan and the two often co-operated in brief business ventures.
Most of their dealings are believed to have involved Arkan's Belgrade football club, Obilic, with both men allegedly taking a cut of the proceeds of transfers of its players to foreign clubs. It seems they fell out over how to share the profits.
The theory that Skole was behind Arkan's death was first published by the Belgrade newspaper Glas soon after the murder. Although Skole was in Sweden at the time, three men taken into custody in connection with the murder all knew him.
Glas claimed one of them, Dejan Petulic, had worked as Skole's bodyguard. The arrested men did not implicate Skole, however, and he was never questioned.
Skole's murder was audacious even by Belgrade standards. It occurred on the same day as the funeral of Zika Petrovic, head of the airline JAT and a friend of President Slobodan Milosevic, who was murdered on Tuesday. In February, the country's defence minister, Pavle Bulatovic, was assassinated.