- The Washington Times - Friday, March 14, 2003

BELGRADE, Serbia and Montenegro Police hunting for the assassins of Serbia's prime minister rounded up more than 70 mob suspects yesterday and detained two of Slobodan Milosevic's former senior security chiefs.
The arrests came a day after Zoran Djindjic, 50, was gunned down in Belgrade. The prime minister had made enemies for his pro-Western stance and for declaring war on the organized crime that flourished both under and after Mr. Milosevic, the former Serbian leader now in the Netherlands on trial on war-crimes charges.
In their first statement since the assassination, police said the arrested suspects had links to an underworld group targeted by Mr. Djindjic's anti-corruption campaign.
The government has accused Zemun Clan a shadowy crime group including former paramilitaries loyal to Mr. Milosevic of masterminding the attack on Mr. Djindjic and several other unsolved killings.
"I assure you we will arrest all responsible and liquidate anyone who resists arrest," said Dusan Mihajlovic, Serbia's interior minister.
Acting Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic said more than 70 people were detained, among them former state security chief Jovica Stanisic and his deputy, Franko Simatovic, who was led from his Belgrade home by three policemen with machine guns.
Before being ousted in the late 1990s, Mr. Stanisic, head of Serbia's secret service, and Mr. Simatovic, who formed a dreaded paramilitary unit known as the Unit for Special Operations, led Mr. Milosevic's paramilitary campaigns in Croatia and Bosnia.
The two were believed to have maintained significant influence in the police and in mob circles even after the former Yugoslav president's ouster in 2000.
Still at large, despite a manhunt, were the main Zemun Clan suspects, including group leader Milorad Lukovic, who succeeded Mr. Simatovic as commander of the Unit for Special Operations. The group committed atrocities against civilians during the 1990s wars in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo.
Mr. Lukovic and his associates also are suspected of being behind attacks on Mr. Milosevic's opponents during the former dictator's rule the attempted killing of opposition leader Vuk Draskovic in 1999 and the 2000 abduction of former Serbian President Ivan Stambolic, not seen or heard from since.
Arrest warrants for Mr. Lukovic and other underworld bosses were to have been signed on the day of Mr. Djindjic's assassination.
Across Belgrade, citizens and politicians mourned the prime minister, who played a key role in ousting Mr. Milosevic in October 2000 and extraditing him to the U.N. war crimes tribunal the following year.
Hundreds of Belgrade residents lined up in front of the government building, laying flowers and lighting candles at the spot where Mr. Djindjic was killed as he stepped from his armored car. Not far away, Mr. Djindjic's Democratic Party held a memorial service, pledging to continue his reformist policies.
An initial investigation showed there were three attackers who wore dark blue overalls with yellow labels. One was armed with a sniper rifle, the other two with handguns, police Chief Milan Obradovic said.
The three fired at Mr. Djindjic through the open window of a room on the second floor of a nearby building and then fled on foot, he said.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide