BELGRADE, Serbia-Montenegro - War crimes fugitive Gen. Ratko Mladic, accused of genocide and crimes against humanity stemming from the Bosnian war, has been located and authorities are negotiating his surrender, a top state security official said Tuesday...
I dunno - we have been round this buoy before, but there MIGHT just be something in it this time. On the other hand it could just be a clumsy attempt by the authorities to show that they are doing their best, followed by a Houdini-like escape into the Balkan darkness.
"War crimes fugitive Gen Ratko Mladic, charged with genocide for his role in the Bosnian war, has been located and authorities are negotiating his surrender, according to a senior Serbia-Montenegro security official.
Mladic "has not yet been arrested,'' said the official, who is close to the operation to locate Mladic.
State news agency Tanjug, quoting Bosnian Serb BN television, had earlier reported that Mladic was arrested and was ''being transported'' to the US-run air force base in Tuzla, eastern Bosnia. Mladic was to be flown to the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, the report said.
The private Beta news agency said Mladic was found on Cer Mountain, some 60 miles west of Belgrade on the border with Bosnia. Beta did not cite its source.
But Srdjan Djuric, spokesman for Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, said Mladic had not been arrested. He called the report a "manipulation'' to derail the government's efforts to detain the wartime Bosnian Serb army commander.
Serbia is under intense pressure from the European Union and the US to capture Mladic, who has been charged by the war crimes tribunal of genocide for his troops' massacre of 8,000 Muslim boys and men in Srebrenica and for the 1992-95 siege of the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo.
EU officials had given Serbia until the end of February to hand Mladic over to The Hague, and threatened to freeze EU membership talks otherwise."
Sorry, but don't have time to provide a fuller account. Background to story as follows:
Serbian Gvt have been 'negotiating' through a number of intermediaries with Mladic to turn himself in voluntarily. A sum of US$ 5 million has been offered to his family (supposedly raised by the serbian diaspora) should he come forward. A deadline was set for this to happen, and it expired last week.
Serbian Gvt immediatly tightened the screws. A number of his 'associates' have suddenly found themselves without jobs (mainly army and state security officials), pensions frozen, etc. etc. For the first time, ICTY detectives have been 'welcomed' to join in their pursuit. Kostunica (the PM) has effectively now lost patience with the man, and feels the political situation is Serbia is 'stable' enough to effect a forceable arrest should they be able to locate and aprehend him relatively peacefully.
Latest story broke in Belgrade by AP some hours ago on the basis of an anonymous tip-off. My contacts, for what they're worth, suggest that the person who gave the tip-off is NOT as close to the situation as AP has you believe. That (suspected) person is close - but outside - the information loop on this one. He is also a political opponent of the current government, and it is believed a supporter of nationalist forces who are keen NOT to see Mladic sent to the Hague. Read into that what you will...
A part-acurate story having broken, the Serbian Gvt was forced to comment on the record, and have outright stated that he has NOT been either: transfered to Tuzla, the Hague or even been arrested. Said spokesman has also pointed out that the story's outing has damaged a 'real' mission to locate Mladic - as well as Serbia political credability.
Whispers last week suggested Mladic was on the point of being arrested in Russia, and Bosnia!
Some whispers today suggest an operation to locate Mladic is ongoing in the Tuzla are of Bosnia. Unlikely if Serbian forces are taking part - as opposed to Republika Srpska forces.
Other whispers today suggest that the 'real' operation, to positively locate Mladic, is being conducted in and around Mt Cer (NE from Loznica) with Serbian and ICTY officials cooperating.
Location of Mount Cer is indicated on link below. NB this is NOT either inside knowledge or speculation, merely showing a location mentioned in confused and contradictory press reports originating in Serbia. You can zoom in a bit using the slider to the left of the map.
Serbian media fan Mladic rumours
Serb media reports suggest the net is closing around top war crimes suspect General Ratko Mladic, despite official denials of his capture.
Some Serbian papers suggest the former Bosnian Serb wartime general is under arrest or being talked into surrender.
But Belgrade has rejected reports of his capture, and it is also denied by The Hague tribunal, which has charged Gen Mladic with war crimes in Bosnia.
Nonetheless, BBC correspondents say some form of talks may be under way.
European Union Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn is due to present a report early next week to EU foreign ministers on whether Serbia is co-operating with the tribunal.
The EU warned Serbia last month that moves towards membership could be halted if Belgrade does not hand over Gen Mladic.
He has been indicted over the siege of Sarajevo, which claimed at least 10,000 lives, and the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, in which at least 7,500 Muslim men and boys were killed.
It was the worst atrocity in Europe since World War II.
The fugitive has been on the run since 1995.
Belgrade's Studio B TV reported on Tuesday that he had been located near Bosnia's Serbian border.
A government spokesman, Srdjan Djuric, dismissed the reports, saying such speculation detracted from Belgrade's efforts "to fully complete its co-operation with The Hague".
But Serb dailies Glas Javnosti and Blic and the Bosnian Serb newspaper Nezavisne Novine reported on Wednesday that Gen Mladic was at a secure location discussing conditions for his surrender with the government.
The largest-circulation newspaper, Vecernje Novosti, reported only that the net was tightening around him and political preparations for his surrender were complete.
Another daily, the Politika, said an operation to capture Gen Mladic was under way, but did not report an outcome.
The EU and The Hague tribunal said they had no information about the reported arrest.
But the tribunal spokeswoman repeated assertions made by Chief Prosecutor Carla del Ponte that Gen Mladic was in Serbia and "in the immediate reach of the authorities".
"We have said for the last 10 days that the arrest could take place very quickly," Florence Hartmann said, quoted by the Associated Press.
A member of the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee told the BBC the reports about Gen Mladic were significant.
Edward McMillan-Scott said progress in talks between the EU and Serbia depended on the handover of Gen Mladic and Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso was in the Balkans last week, the MEP said.
"It may well be that there's a connection between these two reports - and that the Serbs are now ready to hand over the lesser of the two evils, Ratko Mladic," he said.