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Friday, 1 March, 2002, 06:50 GMT
Where are Karadzic and Mladic?
Nato's dramatic armoured swoop on a southern Bosnian village has pushed up a gear the hunt for The Hague's most wanted war crimes suspects, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic.

Despite what Nato described as very good new intelligence, the S-For troops returned with nothing but a selection of seized weapons, saying there was no sign of the Mr Karadzic, the fugitive former Bosnian Serb president.

The decision to close in on the village of Celebici, close to the southern town of Foca in the autonomous Bosnian Serb republic, Republika Srpska, was, however, a sign that Nato wants an end to doubts that it has the political will to risk lives to seize the war crimes suspects.

Former Bosnian Serb President Radovan Karadzic
Karadzic's brother said he was "fine"
But it sheds little light on where Mr Karadzic and General Mladic actually are.

Speculation has long focused on the inhospitable region of steep mountains and extreme summer and winter temperatures around Foca as Mr Karadzic's key base.

He is reported to have moved around the region frequently in recent years, sheltering in homes, farms and Serbian Orthodox monasteries, guarded by what is assumed to be a sizeable contingent of loyal bodyguards.

"I don't believe he is in Foca all the time," British journalist Maggie O'Kane told the BBC after travelling to the region in search of Mr Karadzic last year.

She said there had been reported sightings of him in the areas of Rudo, Visegrad, Cajnice and Foca - which between them cover much of the south-east of the country.

Family visits

Within hours of the Nato raid, Mr Karadzic's brother, Luka, had told a Belgrade radio station that he had "indirect information" that Mr Karadzic was fine, although he said he did not know his brother's whereabouts.

General Ratko Mladic
Mladic is said to be in Serbia
Mr Karadzic is also reported to have visited his mother, Jovanka, across the border in Montenegro. She has told Ms O'Kane in an interview that her son is "with his own people".

And his wife issued a statement last year to quash rumours that her husband was preparing to give himself up and testify against former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in exchange for a more lenient sentence.

Both Mr Karadzic and his former military commander, General Mladic, lived relatively normal lives in the immediate years after the war.

Mr Karadzic lived in the Bosnian Serb wartime stronghold of Pale, east of Sarajevo.

General Mladic stayed for years in a suburb of Belgrade where he was frequently seen in public, even attending football matches.

Elusive general

But General Mladic became more vulnerable once Mr Milosevic fell from power.

Most speculation then put him in the military bunkers of his wartime command centre at Han Pijesak, near Sarajevo.

The UN's chief war crimes prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, said in September 2001, however, that she thought he was in Serbia.

This theory gained credence in February 2002 when a high-ranking Serbian government minister speaking anonymously said General Mladic was in Serbia.

The minister said that the authorities had tried to persuade him to surrender and had warned him he was no longer under the protection of the Yugoslav army.

Correspondents say that after the Nato operation, the pressure will be on the Serb authorities to arrest the general and hand him over.

See also:

28 Feb 02 | Europe
Nato's Karadzic hunt draws blank
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