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A year later, he assumed command of the Yugoslav Army’s 2nd Military District, which effectively became the Bosnian Serb army.

Appointed in 1992 by Karadzic, Mladic led the Bosnian Serb army until the Dayton accords brought peace to Bosnia in 1995.

Obsessed with his nation’s history, Mladic saw Bosnia’s war as a chance for revenge against 500 years of the Ottoman Turks’ occupation of Serbia. He viewed Bosnian Muslims as Turks and called them that as a racial slur.

Mladic was indicted two weeks after the Srebrenica massacre together with Karadzic, who vanished later that year. Serbian security forces captured Karadzic in Belgrade on July 21, 2008.

The Hague tribunal accused the pair of command responsibility for numerous atrocities committed during Bosnia’s 1992-95 war, which killed more than 100,000 people and drove another 1.8 million from their homes.

Thousands of Muslims and Croats were killed, tortured or driven out in a campaign to purge the region of non-Serbs during Karadzic’s wartime leadership. Mladic was Karadzic’s top general, familiar worldwide from TV footage of the beefy man in combat fatigues.

Mladic commanded fierce devotion among his men, and many Bosnian Serb soldiers pledged to follow him to the death. Mladic’s bodyguards once said he had made a death pact with one of them to shoot him rather than let him be captured.

He enjoyed basking in the adoration of his admirers during military parades, and rubbing shoulders with U.N. commanders in Bosnia before he became a fugitive.

Mladic was dismissed from his post in December 1996 by Biljana Plavsic, then president of the Bosnian Serb republic. In February 2003, Plavsic was sentenced to 11 years in prison for persecution, a crime against humanity. U.N. prosecutors had dropped seven other charges against her, including genocide.

When in the late 1990s his trail grew too hot in Bosnia, Mladic moved with his family to Belgrade, where he lived free in a posh suburban villa.

In Belgrade, he showed up at soccer games, dined in plush restaurants and frequented elite cafes, refusing to give interviews and smiling quizzically when he happened to be photographed.

When the late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic was ousted in October 2000, and the country’s new pro-democracy authorities signaled they might hand Mladic over to the tribunal, Mladic was rumored to have returned to Bosnia.

But the flamboyant Mladic made a few daring forays back into Belgrade. In June 2001, he was seen dining in a well-known fish restaurant frequented by foreign diplomats in the Serbian capital.

Although he went underground in 2002, as recently as 2004, Mladic was seen driving a battered, boxy Yugo car in Belgrade — without the six black-clad bodyguards with shaven heads who typically escorted him.

Authorities recorded the last trace of Mladic living in Belgrade in January 2006, said Ljajic, a member of a government team hunting the ex-general.

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