Former Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic, the fugitive accused of masterminding the 1995 Srebrenica massacre during the Bosnian War, was arrested in Serbia Thursday after evading capture for more than 15 years.
Ratko Mladic, the former military commander of Bosnia’s Serbian army, also dubbed “the Butcher of Bosnia,” was arrested in Serbia Thursday, ending an international manhunt that lasted well over a decade.
At a news conference in Belgrade Thursday, Serbian President Boris Tadic announced his arrest.
"On behalf of the Republic of Serbia I can announce the arrest of Ratko Mladic. The extradition process is underway," Tadic told reporters. He however declined to provide details of Mladic’s capture.
News of his arrest broke shortly before noon Thursday, when the respected Serbian radio station B92 reported that a man believed to the Bosian Serb military commander during the 1992-1995 Bosnian War had been arrested.
Mladic had been on the run since he was indicted in 1995 by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia on 15 counts, including genocide - for orchestrating the massacre of 8,000 people in Srebrenica in July 1995 - and violation of the rules of war for his role in the siege of Sarajevo.
But for years after the indictment, Mladic lived openly in the Serbian capital of Belgrade - his sightings at restaurant and football matches making the news and increasing international ire over Serbia’s failure to handover indicted suspects from the Bosnian conflict.
It was not until 2001, when former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic was arrested following a popular uprising that ousted his government, that Mladic disappeared from public view.
Along with former Bosnian Serb politician Radovan Karadzic, Mladic was one of the most high-profile fugitives of the Bosnian conflict.
Karadzic’s arrest in July 2008 increased speculation that the ruddy Bosnian Serb former military commander would soon be arrested.
But for nearly three years, Mladic evaded arrest even as Serbian authorities increased the reward for his capture from 5 to 10 million euros. Mladic’s capture has long been viewed as a prerequisite for Serbia to join the European Union.
The worst massacre in Europe since World War II
Born in 1942, Mladic was two when his father, a member of the Communist resistance, was killed by Croatian militants at the end of World War II. Mladic joined the army of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and made his career there.
In the early 1990s, he was assigned to the Knin Garrison, where the first assaults by Croatian Serbs against the Yugoslav Federation were taking place.
By 1992, he had taken command of the Yugoslav Army's Second Military District based in Sarajevo, and is considered to have been one of the main movers in the four-year siege of Sarajevo, one of the longest sieges of a capital city in the history of modern warfare.
In 1995, Mladic led the Serb onslaught against the UN-protected enclave of Srebrenica, which resulted in Europe’s worst wartime atrocity since World War II.
Although Srebrenica was declared a “UN safe area,” Mladic’s forces laid siege to the eastern Bosnian town, where tens of thousands of embattled Bosnian Muslim civilians had taken refuge from Serb offensives.
In July 1995, units under Mladic’s command entered the besieged town. Mladic himself was captured by Serbian TV cameras in the town.
What followed was one of the most gruesome massacres on European soil since World War II. The town’s women and children were bussed out of the area, while the males were singled out, allegedly for interrogation.
But at the end of five bloody days, nearly 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys had been killed in the eastern Bosnian enclave.
Srebrenica victims welcome capture
Following the end of the war and the 1995 indictment, Mladic returned to Belgrade, protected by Milosevic until the latter’s capture in 2001, on the heels of a popular uprising against his government.
In the following years, there were numerous reports of Mladic's capture as well as reports of his health problems.
In 2010 his family filed a request to have him legally declared dead.
International reactions to his capture were swift, with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton urging Serbia to transfer Mladic to the war crimes court in The Hague without delay.
Reacting to Thursday’s news of his capture, families of the victims of the Srebrenica massacre expressed a sense of closure.
"After 16 years of waiting, for us, the victims' families, this really very important...[it] is a relief," Hajra Catic, head of the association Women of Srebrenica, who lost her husband and son in the massacre, told the AFP.
Date created : 2011-05-26