General Radislav Krstic was seized in northern Bosnia and will soon be sent to the International War Crimes Tribunal in the Netherlands, Nato said. He is the highest- ranking military figure to be brought before the court since it was set up by the UN Security Council in 1993.
The arrest is likely to anger many Bosnian Serbs because Nato forces acted on a "sealed indictment" - a secret list of war-crime suspects drawn up by the tribunal in The Hague.
"Persons indicted for war crimes who are still at large should realise that they, too, will be brought to justice," Nato's Secretary General, Javier Solana, said in Brussels.
Louise Arbour, the tribunal's chief prosecutor, described Gen Krstic as "a very significant military leader" and said the indictment related to his key role in the assault on Srebrenica. The mainly Muslim town in eastern Bosnia was overrun by the Bosnian Serb army, led by Ratko Mladic, in July 1995. Most of the adult male population was slaughtered and the bodies dumped in mass graves.
The tribunal has so far completed four cases. On Monday the trial began of Goran Jelisic, known as "Serbian Adolf" for his alleged atrocities against Muslims and Croats in Brcko, in northern Bosnia.
Another 25 detainees are in custody in the tribunal's cells in Scheveningen near The Hague.Reuse content