Paramilitary leader for Serbs fatally shot in Belgrade hotel

Arkan, who was wanted on war crimes charges, seen as threat to Milosevic

January 16, 2000|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- Zeljko Raznatovic, a Serbian paramilitary leader known as Arkan who was wanted on war crimes charges in the Bosnian and Croatian wars, was shot and killed yesterday in the lobby of Belgrade's Intercontinental Hotel.

Raznatovic, who was shot in the left eye at 5: 15 p.m., was taken to the main emergency hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 6: 40 p.m., Studio B, the Belgrade television station, reported.

A witness at the Intercontinental, where blood could be seen at the entrance an hour after the shooting, said a bodyguard, whose name was reported to be Momcilo Mandic, had also been killed. Other reports said an unidentified woman and an unidentified man had been wounded or possibly killed.

The gunmen apparently escaped, although the police arrived quickly.

Raznatovic, 47, was said to be accompanied by his wife, the popular singer Svetlana Raznatovic, known as Ceca, and their two children when he was shot. The attack bore the hallmarks of political assassinations here, which have been carried out in gangland style.

Expulsion of non-Serbs

Raznatovic's gunmen took part in the brutal three-month siege of the Croatian city of Vukovar in 1991 and helped the Bosnian Serbs overrun northern and eastern Bosnia a year later. There, he was one of the pioneers of what came to be known as "ethnic cleansing," the killing and violent expulsion of non-Serbs.

He was secretly indicted in 1997 by the international war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, accused of crimes against humanity in Bosnia and Croatia. But his indictment was made public by the tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, during NATO's bombing war against Yugoslavia, which began in March.

Considered a danger

He was thought to be dangerous to President Slobodan Milosevic of Yugoslavia and other key members of the government because of what he knew about the killings and atrocities of the war in Bosnia. The Hague tribunal was said to be negotiating with Raznatovic to get him to surrender and testify against others, but Raznatovic regularly denied those reports.

The speculation was that Milosevic, who has been indicted by the tribunal for war crimes during the Kosovo war, and his government would benefit most from the killing.

Worried about safety

Friends said Raznatovic had been worried about his safety in the past few months, said Zoran Djindjic, the leader of the Democratic Party, who had contact with him.

Djindjic, in an interview last night, described Raznatovic as having distanced himself from Milosevic while keeping strong contacts with the Yugoslav and Serbian security services.

Raznatovic led a paramilitary group called the Serbian National Guard, known as the "Tigers," who took part in the Croatian and Bosnian wars.

He was also wanted by the international police body Interpol in connection with a series of bank robberies across Western Europe.

He did not play a major role in last year's Kosovo war, though some of his paramilitary Tigers were engaged in the forced expulsion and killing of ethnic Albanians there.

Raznatovic was one of the last of the criminal and paramilitary leaders closely involved with state security and the wars in Bosnia and Croatia.

Djindjic said, "He was baby-faced but very dangerous."

Last month, Zoran Sijan, an organized crime leader with experiences similar to Raznatovic's, was killed, Djindjic said.

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