War Crimes suspect killed and NATO soldiers wounded in arrest attempt in Bosnia

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The Independent Online

A war crimes suspect trying to evade arrest in Bosnia detonated a hand grenade that killed himself and wounded four NATO troops Thursday night, NATO and the war crimes tribunal said today.

A war crimes suspect trying to evade arrest in Bosnia detonated a hand grenade that killed himself and wounded four NATO troops Thursday night, NATO and the war crimes tribunal said today.

A Bosnian Serb police spokesman, Zoran Glusac, said NATO-led troops tried to arrest Janko Janjic, 43, around midnight in the house of his brother in the Serb-held town of Foca, 25 miles southeast of Sarajevo, at the border to Montenegro.

The town is in the area of responsibility of German troops. The German Defence Ministry said German soldiers played "a decisive role" in the arrest attempt, but the nationality of the wounded soldiers was not immediately released.

German Defence Minister Rudolf Scharping said Janjic threw a hand grenade during the arrest. He was severely injured and died shortly afterward, Scharping said. Glusac, the police spokesman in Banja Luka, said two explosions were heard. One of Janjic's relatives also was wounded.

NATO headquarters in Brussels said four soldiers of SFOR, the NATO peacekeeping force in Bosnia, were wounded. Scharping said they were out of danger. The soldiers "did not fire their weapons" during the arrest attempt, NATO said.

It was the first time troops belonging to the NATO force, dispatched to the former Yugoslav territory after the 1995 Dayton Agreement, had suffered casualties making an arrest on behalf of the tribunal.

A statement from the chief war crimes prosecutor in The Hague, Carla Del Ponte, commended the courage of the troops and said "we share a sense of regret that the attempt ended in tragedy."

According to a 1996 indictment, Janjic was responsible for running the Buk Bijela detention center where "women were interrogated and sexually assaulted throughout July 1992." The NATO statement said he was wanted for crimes committed during a 10-month period until February 1993, the height of the Bosnian war.

Janjic, a prewar car mechanic, became one of the subcommanders of the Serb military police and a paramilitary leader in Foca. He was involved in the attack on Foca and its surrounding villages and the arrest of civilians.

Janjic's sister-in-law, Nada Janjic, was arrested on Thursday but later released, said the Serb policeman, Glusac.

Scharping said Germany would not be deterred by the abortive arrest from fulfilling future tasks for the tribunal. The tribunal has no enforcement arm of its own and must rely on the NATO troops to bring in indicted criminals for extradition to The Hague for trial.

"The pursuit of war crimes suspects and further cooperation with the War Crimes Tribunal remains essential in the future," said Scharping.

NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson also pledged continued efforts to arrest suspects. "NATO deeply regrets the loss of life," he said. "NATO is committed to arresting indicted war criminals and delivering them to The Hague."

Del Ponte's spokesman Paul Risley said Janjic had vowed in the past not to surrender alive and had threatened journalists with a hand grenade.

"We recognize that the application of justice to a region that is still not at peace continues to be a dangerous business," said Del Ponte's statement. "The events of last night only underscore the necessity that those who are publicly accused must voluntarily surrendered at the earliest possible date."

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