Serbs hunting Mladic fear shoot-out or suicide

The noose is tightening around one of the Balkans' most wanted war crimes suspects, the Bosnian Serb leader General Ratko Mladic, with the Serbian authorities' biggest concern being to capture him alive.

Well-informed sources told The Independent that "the situation is warm, but not hot yet", regarding the general's arrest. However, fears are mounting that Mladic, who went into hiding years ago, might commit suicide and choose the exit of a "tragic hero", to escape being handed over to the war crimes tribunal in The Hague. Many Serbs still regard the fugitive as a war hero.

Authorities fear there could be casualties if an arrest is made. It is widely believed that the general is surrounded by several rings of loyal bodyguards.

Sources close to Mladic said that they doubted that he would surrender. "He'd rather kill himself ... negotiations are out of the question," one anonymous source said. "He has nothing to negotiate about. All his [wartime] aides are behind the bars, he has got nothing to lose."

The general, aged 62, is also said to be in poor health.

The international war crimes tribunal has sentenced half a dozen Bosnian Serb officers who were under Mladic's command for their role in the July 1995 massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the town of Srebrenica.

Rumours that the government was negotiating surrender have been denied by senior officials, including the national co-ordinator for co-operation with the tribunal, the Human Rights Minister, Rasim Ljajic.

"Such rumours create the impression that we did know where he was all the time, but did not want to arrest him," Mr Ljajic said.

Well-informed sources say that the arrest of Mladic might come "any day now", with one of the big towns in Serbia being pinpointed as his hiding place. Military friends from the days of the former Yugoslavia are believed to be sheltering him. Besides Srebrenica, Mladic is accused of complicity in genocide, crimes against humanity and violations of laws or customs of war in the armed conflict in Bosnia between 1992 and 1995. More than 200,000 people died in the war, most of them non-Serbs.

Under his ruthless command, the daily shelling of the capital, Sarajevo took 10,000 lives - a death toll higher than the number of victims under the German occupation in the Second World War.

The chilling video of the execution of six young Muslims, which was revealed last week in the trial of the former strongman Slobodan Milosevic and shown on Bosnian and Serbian television, seems to have speeded up the hunt for Mladic inside Serbia.

Serbia's financial survival and full reintegration into the international community depends on the extradition of Mladic.

Well-informed sources said that the name of the town in Serbia where the general is allegedly hiding is not being revealed for "fear of unrest".

The US assistant secretary of state Nicholas Burns, announcing the restoration of a $10m (£5.5m) aid package to Belgrade on Thursday, said: "We are confident that his days of relative freedom are numbered."

Mladic's whereabouts have been a mystery for years now. Although wanted by the tribunal since 1995, he lived more or less freely in Mr Milosevic's Serbia. From time to time he even resided in his family house in the Kosutnjak neighbourhood of Belgrade. However, since the change of regime and Mr Milosevic's extradition to the tribunal in 2001, the general went literally underground. Last summer he was reported to have been seen in the Han Pijesak compound in eastern Bosnia, the Communist-era underground military complex he used in the war. Last autumn he allegedly spent some time in a similar complex in Belgrade.

Still free

RADOVAN KARADZIC

Born 1945, in Montenegro. Set up the Serbian Democratic Party, dedicated to a Greater Serbia. Declared an independent Serbian Republic of Bosnia, headed by himself, in 1992. Allegedly orchestrated the Srebrenica massacre, the shelling of Sarajevo, and using UN peacekeepers as human shields. Indicted for war crimes in 1995 and went into hiding.

ANTE GOTOVINA

Born 1955 in Croatia; member of French Foreign Legion in the 1970s. Commander in the Croatian Army in the early 1990s. In 1995 allegedly orchestrated Operation Storm, in which soldiers raped, tortured, and killed thousands of Serbs in the Krajina region of Croatia. Dismissed in 2000. Went into hiding after war crime indictment.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
Voices
Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
voicesDJ Taylor: The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a worker's rant to Russell Brand
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
News
i100
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Construction Solicitor - London

Very Competitive Salary : Austen Lloyd: NICHE CITY FIRM - We are making a disc...

Austen Lloyd: Construction Solicitor - London

Very Competitive Salary : Austen Lloyd: NICHE CITY FIRM - We are making a disc...

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick