He was the last suspected war criminal still sought by the International Criminal Court for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). But on Wednesday, Goran Hadzic was captured in Serbia, local television reported. The report was later confirmed by a government official and Serbian President Boris Tadic is scheduled to hold a press conference on the arrest later on Wednesday.
Hadzic was the leader of rebel Serbs in Croatia and he is a suspect in the deaths of hundreds of Croatian civilians and in the deportation of tens of thousands of Croats during Croatia's war of independence from Yugoslavia, fought from 1991 to 1995.
His arrest was a condition of continued rapprochement between Serbia and the European Union. Belgrade hopes that his extradition to The Hague will clear the way for Serbia to become an official candidate for accession to the EU by the end of this year.
Hadzic was born in 1958 near the eastern Croatian city of Vukovar. He became a member of the communist party early on before joining the nationalist Serbian Democratic Party, which Radovan Karadzic took over in 1990. Karadzic is currently being tried before the ICTY on war crimes charges.
In 1992, Hadzic was named president of the self-proclaimed Republic of Serbian Krajina, an office he held until 1993. Though geographically distant, the Republic of Serbian Krajina, which was never recognized internationally, identified itself as part of Serbia. It is during these years that most of his alleged war crimes are thought to have been perpetrated.
Hadzic was officially indicted in 2004 for planning and carrying out the expulsion and murder of Croats. Hundreds are thought to have lost their lives during his campaign to ethnically cleanse the regions he controlled. During the war, he reportedly said: "We will fight on until the last fascist is expelled from Croatia."
Authorities have wanted Hadzic for years. He narrowly escaped arrest on at least one occasion, likely thanks to a tip from Serbian authorities. Indeed, it is largely due to suspicions that Serbia wasn't doing enough to track down suspected war criminals that it has not yet become a formal EU accession candidate.
Wednesday's arrest is the second such high-profile apprehension this year. At the end of May, Serbian authorities finally managed to take former Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic. He has been charged with 11 counts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the Bosnian war from 1992 to 1995. In particular, he has been accused of being behind the 1995 massacre at Srebrenica, which saw the murder of 8,000 men and boys.