Serb fugitive shot by French

Click to follow
The Independent Online
FRENCH peacekeeping troops shot and killed Bosnian Serb war crimes suspect Dragan Gagovic yesterday after he tried to run them down with his car during an attempt to arrest him, writes Fredrik Dahl of Reuters.

French troops of the UN Stabilisation Force (SFOR) opened fire on his car near the Bosnian town of Foca. Two teenagers and three children in the car were unharmed. The French ministry, in a statement, said a doctor present at the time of the shooting noted that Gagovic had died instantly.

The shooting sparked a protest by about 100 people outside the office of the UN policing mission in the town. Two staff members were injured during the demonstration, prompting the office's evacuation, a UN spokeswoman said.

Gagovic, 38, and seven other Bosnian Serbs were charged by the UN War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, in June 1996, with raping and torturing Muslim women in Foca, some as young as 15, between the spring of 1992 and early 1993. Gagovic was the local police chief in Foca, where Serb paramilitary forces expelled or killed Muslims in the "ethnic cleansing".

The tribunal charged that on at least one occasion he responded to complaints about sexual assaults by later raping the woman who protested. The indictment against him is the first to treat rape as a war crime.

He is the second Bosnian Serb war crimes suspect since the end of the 1995 war to die during an arrest. In July 1997, former police chief Simo Drljaca was shot dead when he fired on British troops trying to arrest him near the north-western town of Prijedor. Several suspects have been snatched without incident, while others have surrendered.

Foca is known for allegedly harbouring several indicted Bosnian Serb war criminals. Last summer, the international group Human Rights Watch issued a report about the town, describing it as a "closed, dark place" and saying that six indicted war criminals, including Gagovic, lived there more or less openly. According to one report, he owned a bar there.

Last month, a Bosnian daily newspaper, Dnevni Avaz, reported that wartime Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, who heads the tribunal's list of those indicted for war crimes, was also hiding near Foca with his bodyguards after leaving nearby Visegrad.

Karadzic, reportedly, had decided to find a new hiding place after the US was reported to have offered up to $5m for any information that might lead to the arrest of several of the most wanted war crimes suspects.

In June last year, French SFOR troops, who patrol that part of the country, detained the war crimes suspect Milorad Krnojelac for alleged war crimes in the same town during 1992 and 1993.