- The Washington Times - Friday, March 1, 2002

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina Acting on a tip, NATO soldiers raided a remote Bosnian village yesterday but failed to find Radovan Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb leader and the most wanted suspect of the U.N. war-crimes tribunal.

The multinational force, made up of peacekeepers stationed in Bosnia, swept the area of Celebici village in the east, "to detain Radovan Karadzic," NATO said in a statement.

Although Mr. Karadzic was not found, the raid demonstrates NATO's "resolve to act in apprehending by force, if necessary, persons indicted for war crimes," said a statement from Sfor, the NATO-led Bosnian Stabilization Force. The troops moved into the area on an anonymous tip that Mr. Karadzic was there, the statement added.

The Sfor statement said three "significant" weapons caches, including anti-tank rockets, grenades, mortar rounds, automatic machine guns, mines and ammunition were found during the raid.

NATO peacekeepers in Bosnia have been criticized for failing to catch Mr. Karadzic and his wartime military commander, Gen. Ratko Mladic though peacekeepers have arrested dozens of other suspects sought by the war-crimes tribunal.

NATO in the past has rarely elaborated on its moves against war-crimes suspects in Bosnia. The robust language of the statement suggested it was sending a message to Mr. Karadzic and others at large that they remained targets.

Indicating a large-scale operation, Bosnian Serb TV earlier reported detonations and gunfire near the village of Celebici, about 45 miles southeast of Sarajevo, adding that two NATO helicopters had landed nearby.

The TV report also said that peacekeepers were entering schools and homes in the area. Reporters in the region also spoke of explosions.

Electricity and telephones were cut off in the Celebici area, roads were blocked for a 25-mile radius around it, and residents were told not to leave their homes.

[The U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo yesterday instructed American citizens not to travel to the Serbian-administered eastern parts of the country until March 4, Agence France-Presse reported. Americans already in the region were urged to "exercise extreme caution, avoid crowds, demonstrations and roadblocks."

[In a likely retaliation, shots were fired at the U.N. police building in the northern Bosnian town of Bjeljina yesterday, a U.N. spokesman told Agence France-Presse. Nobody was injured in the incident that left the windows of a grocery shop on the first floor of the building shattered.]

Mr. Karadzic and Gen. Mladic were past allies of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, now being tried by the tribunal for purported war crimes committed in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo.

Mr. Karadzic and Gen. Mladic are charged with genocide and crimes against humanity in Bosnia during the more than three-year war that began in 1992 when the republic declared independence from Yugoslavia. The war pitted Bosnian Serbs, Croats and Muslims against each other, but the longest and most bitter conflict was between Serbs and Muslims.

Approximately 200,000 people, mostly civilians, were killed in Europe's bloodiest conflict since World War II, and more than 20,000 people are still missing and presumed dead.

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