Serb police raid relatives' homes in hunt for Karadzic

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The Independent Online

Serbian police were not idle over the weekend. They searched the houses of Mr Karadzic's brothers Luka and Ivan in Belgrade and the neighbouring town of Obrenovac.

Montenegrin police searched the family home of the Karadzics in Niksic on Thursday last week, seizing videos, photographs, address books, computer disks and a computer, Mr Karadzic's brother Luka confirmed.

"My brother will never surrender to The Hague [war crimes tribunal]," Luka Karadzic said recently. "He is being protected by God and his people."

According to well-placed international security agencies, Mr Karadzic allegedly spends his time between Niksic, a small town where he grew up in central Montenegro, and the nearby Serbian Orthodox monastery of Ostrog.

International peacekeepers in Bosnia cannot take any action against Mr Karadzic, as Montenegro is out of their jurisdiction. The tiny republic is part of the state union of Serbia and Montenegro.

Mr Karadzic went underground eight years ago. He was indicted for genocide by the international war crimes tribunal for his part in the 1992-95 Bosnian war, which claimed more than 200,000 lives, most victims being non-Serbs.

International pressure has mounted for his capture before the 10th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre of 8,000 Muslims that took place in July 1995.

But for many Serbs and particularly for the conservative yet influential Serbian Orthodox Church, he remains a hero and an icon. The church is believed to have provided shelter for Mr Karadzic in the past.

"We are grateful to Jovanka Karadzic for giving birth to an immortal Serb hero," Bishop Amfilohije Radovic said in May. He led the funeral ceremony for Mr Karadzic's mother, who died in Niksic at the age of 83.

Many believed that Mr Karadzic would attend the ceremony even in disguise, but Montenegrin plain-clothes policemen at the scene said he was not there.

Besides nourishing the war-time cult of Mr Karadzic, the church denies that Serbs could have committed any atrocities during the clashes in the 1990s.

With such support, Serb denial of the Srebrenica massacre remains strong. Mr Karadzic and the man who led the attack, General Ratko Mladic, are still viewed as heroes among many, only days ahead of the 11 July solemn ceremony that will mark 10 years since the unprecedented massacre.

Mr Karadzic is widely believed to have obtained finances for his large family and personal protection in 1997, when he took 36 million German marks from one of the banks under the control of his war-time aides.

Although in hiding for so many years, Mr Karadzic, a psychiatrist and self-proclaimed poet, has had time for his favourite hobby: writing. A group of fans published his novel The Miraculous Chronicle of the Night in Belgrade last year, while love letters to his wife, Ljiljana, in 2002 surfaced in Sarajevo recently.