Former Bosnian Serb Leader Captured Bosnian Muslims Celebrate Karadzic's Arrest

The arrest of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, the man accused of orchestrating Europe's worst massacre since World War II, has unleashed an outburst of joy in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo. In Belgrade, police have amassed in front of the court building where Karadzic is being held.


He was on the run for a decade, but now Radovan Karadzic, 63, the former president of the Bosnian Serbs who is accused of war crimes including the massacre of 8,000 Muslims in Srebenica, has been caught.

The arrest took place on Monday evening and was "an operation of the Serbian security services," said the office of Serbian President Boris Tadic.

However, Sveta Vujacic, Karadzic's lawyer, had a different version of events. He said Karadzic had been arrested on a public bus around 9:30 a.m. on Friday and held until he was brought to the court Monday.

"He just said that these people showed him a police badge and then he was taken to some place and kept in the room. And that is absolutely against the law what they did," Vujacic told AP Television News. "The judge also said that he will look into this matter, who and why kept him for three days."

Karadzic was brought before the investigative judge of Serbia's war crimes court, a sign that he will shortly be extradited to the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands.

The tribunal described him as the suspected mastermind of "scenes from hell, written on the darkest pages of human history."

'An Historic Moment'

Karadzic's arrest prompted reactions by leaders across Europe on Tuesday morning. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel called the suspected war criminal's capture an "historic moment." The "victims need to know that massive human rights violations do not go unpunished. The German leader described his arrest as "good news for the entire Balkans. It is an essential step to peace and reconciliation in the region." Merkel praised Serbian Preident Boris Tadic for what she described as a "courageous step" that "underscored Serbia's European aspirations."

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner hailed the development as a "very good thing for the rapprochement of Serbia with the European Union." In Brussels, European Commission President Manuel Barroso described the arrest as "very important for Serbia's European aspirations."

Prosecutors believe Karadzic had succeeded in eluding the manhunt for so long because he had help from Bosnian Serb nationalists and used elaborate disguises.

Serbia has been under intense international pressure for years to hand over war crimes suspects to the UN tribunal. Karadzic faces charges of genocide and other crimes.

His whereabouts had been a mystery to UN prosecutors, unlike those of his wartime military commander, General Ratko Mladic, who had last been spotted living in Belgrade in 2005 and remains at large. Mladic is also wanted for war crimes including the Srebenica massacre.

After Karadzic's arrest, dozens of his supporters gathered in front of the Belgrade court building where Karadzic was brought before the investigating judge. Heavily armed units of the Serbian police amassed in front of the building.

The US Embassy, which had already become a target for Serbian ultra-nationalists in February during protests against Kosovo's declaration of independence, was also put under police protection.

"Karadzic, You Hero"

Several supporters of Karadzic were arrested in front of the building after they attacked reporters. Many Serbs still celebrate Karadzic as a patriot. "Karadzic, you hero," his supporters called, and "Tadic, you traitor."

Meanwhile, in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo, where an estimated 10,000 people died during a four-year siege by Serb nationalists from 1992 to 1996, Bosnian Muslims flooded into the streets and cheered, sang and danced at the news of Karadzic's arrest. The streets were clogged with cars honking their horns.

The chief prosecutor of The Hague tribunal, Serge Brammertz, congratulated the Serb authorities on the arrest. "This is a very important day for the victims who have waited for this arrest for over a decade," he said. "It is also an important day for international justice, because it clearly demonstrates that nobody is beyond the reach of the law and that sooner or later all fugitives will be brought to justice."

If Karadzic is handed over to the tribunal, he would be the 44th Serb to be brought to trial. So far, the most prominent defendant has been the former Serb President Slobodan Milosevic, who was overthrown in 2000 and died of a heart attack in detention while awaiting trial in The Hague six years later.

'The Osama Bin Laden of Europe '

UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon hailed the arrest as an "historic moment," adding that the victims of the Bosnian wars had waited 13 years for justice. The US government celebrated the arrest as a tribute to the victims of the wartime atrocities. According to Richard Holbrooke, the former US Balkans envoy, an important criminal -- who he branded the "Osama Bin Laden of Europe" -- had been taken off the world stage.

The opposition Serb nationalists, however, criticized Karadzic's arrest. Aleksandar Vucic, the general secretary of the Serbian Radical Party (SRS) lamented the loss "of people who are symbols of patriotism." The arrest was a favor to the EU by the new pro-European government after Brussels had supported the governing parties in the past.

Following Karadzic's arrest, the UN tribunal now has only two alleged war criminals remaining on its most-wanted list: Karadzic's former right-hand man Mladic and the former Serb leader in Croatia, Goran Hadzic. In the Bosnian war between 1992 and 1995 -- the worst bloodshed in Europe since the end of World War II -- around 100,000 people were murdered and around 1.8 million had to flee their homes.

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