By RADUL RADOVANOVICNato arrests aide to Bosnia's most wanted war crimes suspect
PALE, Bosnia-Herzegovina (April 3, 2000) - NATO on Monday detained the highest-ranking suspect to be arrested on war crimes charges in the former Yugoslavia - an aide to former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic.
Witnesses to the arrest of Momcilo Krajisnik said NATO troops with the Bosnian peacekeeping force detained the Serb leader after forcing open a door to his home in Pale, southeast of Sarajevo, with explosives. The French Defense Ministry in Paris said French troops made the arrest.
"They took my Dad away," Krajisnik's son Milos, 21, told The Associated Press. "Some of them spoke Serbian, some English but mostly French." He said he and his brother, Njegos, 19, were tied and their faces turned toward the floor during the arrest.
Yugoslavia's state-run Tanjug news agency said Krajisnik was led away in his pajamas and bare feet.
NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson said in a statement issued in Brussels, Belgium, that Krajisnik was arrested early Monday and was being processed for transfer to The Hague, Netherlands - where the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal is located.
"He is accused of genocide, crimes against humanity, violations of the laws and customs of war and grave breaches of the Geneva Convention, including murder, willful killing, extermination, complicity in genocide, deportation and inhumane acts," Robertson said.
Robertson said Krajisnik was "the highest ranking person" captured so far by international forces seeking suspected war criminals in the former Yugoslavia.
"It is good news for justice and good news for the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina," Robertson said. "To those individuals who remain at large I will repeat ... the net is closing."
Still at large are Karadzic, the No. 1 war crimes suspect in Bosnia, and his top general, Ratko Mladic. Krajisnik, Karadzic's senior aide for most of the Bosnian war, replaced him as the leader of Bosnia's Serbs after Karadzic was forced to give up public functions because of his indictment by the war crimes tribunal.
In The Hague, chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte also urged the arrest of Karadzic, "who should stand trial jointly with the accused, Momcilo Krajisnik."
Tribunal spokesman Paul Risley said Krajisnik was one of "the individuals who ran illegal operations that resulted in the deaths of thousands of Bosnians."
"He was present at every meeting where political and military actions were decided upon that resulted in deportations, illegal arrests, ethnic cleansing and the deaths of thousands of Bosnians," Risley said.
Krajisnik, in his mid 50s, is an economist by training. He was an executive of the largest company in Bosnia, Energoinvest, which made parts for Russian nuclear reactors.
Krajisnik became speaker of the Bosnian parliament in 1990, before Serbs walked out and the war began. After the war ended in 1995, he served as the Serb representative on the three-member Bosnian presidency, along with a Croat and a Muslim.
During his election campaign, he and other senior leaders of the Serb Democratic Party advocated Serb secession from Bosnia. Election officials made them apologize publicly on the eve of the vote.
Aides describe the widower and father of three as conservative and pious. He considers separation based on ethnicity and religion to be natural.
Like other leaders in the Bosnian conflict, he was rumored to have enriched himself through illegal dealings during and after the war.
Mirko Banjac, a ranking official of Krajisnik's Serb Democratic Party, expressed concern at the arrest, adding: "We have the right to demand an explanation."
Amor Masovic, head of the Muslim commission for missing persons, described Krajisnik as "one of the masterminds of the genocide and ethnic cleansing in Bosnia."
The arrest, coming ahead of next weekend's Bosnian municipal elections, heightened concerns that the voting could be marred by violence. It also might boost radical nationalist Serbs opposed to reconciliation in Bosnia.
The arrest will "radicalize the political environment," Serb moderate Mladen Ivanic said.