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Thursday, 28 February, 2002, 14:47 GMT
Nato's Karadzic hunt draws blank
Radovan Karadzic
Foca is thought to be one of Radovan Karadzic's hide-outs
A massive Nato operation near the southern Bosnian town of Foca has failed to find the former Bosnian Serb President and war crimes suspect, Radovan Karadzic.

Map of Bosnia, Foca and Celebici
A large contingent of soldiers from Bosnia's Stabilisation Force (S-For) sealed off the village of Celebici early on Thursday morning and began searching for Mr Karadzic.

"The primary objective - which was to detain Karadzic - we didn't succeed in," said Nato spokesman Mark Laity. "Karadzic was not found at this location."

Nato said it had acted on very good intelligence that Mr Karadzic was hiding in the compound.

Three large weapons caches were found during the operation.

Radovan Karadzic:
  • Former President of the Bosnian Serb Republic
  • Accused by The Hague tribunal of genocide, crimes against humanity and violations of the acts of war
  • Before entering politics he was a psychiatrist and poet

    See also:
      The charges

  • Mr Laity said that despite failing to catch Mr Karadzic this time, Nato was determined to continue its hunt for him.

    "Clearly the net is closing and it does demonstrate that Nato's going to do what it has to do... [Karadzic] either surrenders with dignity or we are going to catch him," he said.

    During the operation, people were reportedly not allowed to leave their houses while several helicopters landed in the village.

    Bosnian Serb media reported that hundreds of soldiers, as well as armoured vehicles, were mobilised.

    Two explosions were also reported to have been heard in the area.

    The RTRS TV station said troops forced their ways into schools, hospitals, churches and other public buildings.

    Water, electricity and communications were reported to have been cut off.

    Mr Karadzic is widely believed to have used the Foca region as one of his bases in his six years on the run from the war crimes tribunal at The Hague.

    He is originally from Montenegro and is reported to have frequently crossed the border to Montenegro, which lies near Foca.

    Brkovic Tomana stands by her broken door in Celebici
    Local residents complained about damage caused by the raid
    The BBC's Paul Anderson says the mountainous and inhospitable region made the Nato operation fraught with danger.

    Mr Karadzic is also reported to have a loyal following of bodyguards and is said to be ready to kill himself rather than be taken into custody.

    He is also believed to have sought shelter in Orthodox monasteries.

    Mr Karadzic and his military commander General Ratko Mladic have been indicted on several charges including genocide by the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia at The Hague.

    They are accused of involvement in the massacre at Srebrenica in which thousands of Bosnian Muslim men were killed.

    Recent reports say that General Mladic has been seen in the Yugoslav capital Belgrade.

    The Bosnian Serb authorities have been under pressure from the war crimes tribunal to hand over the 20 indicted war criminals who are still at large in the autonomous region.

    So far, Bosnian Serb police have not detained any war crimes suspects.

    Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Mladen Ivanic warned that Thursday's operation - which he says he was not informed about - was likely further to worsen relations between the Bosnian Serbs and the Hague tribunal.

    "One cannot expect co-operation with the tribunal while there is no co-operation of the international community with Republika Srpska," he said.

    The BBC's Ben Brown
    "The soldiers searched dozens of houses"
    The BBC's Paul Anderson
    "That determinism will also transfer to Belgrade"
    Jacques Klein, UN Special Representative in Bosnia
    "This demonstrates SFOR's capabilities"
    Captain Daryl Morrell, Spokesman for SFOR
    "We will continue to try and bring him to justice"
    See also:

    28 Feb 02 | Europe
    The race to catch Karadzic
    01 Mar 02 | Europe
    Where are Karadzic and Mladic?
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