AT THE TIME it did not seem of great significance: when a smart
blonde and her young son were snatched outside his school in
Belgrade by a group of armed thugs, who quickly ran away as
police arrived, only a few inquiries were made and the case was
Serbia’s assassinated prime minister, was buried after a service
that drew up to 500,000 people onto the streets of the city,
investigators were looking again at the incident. The woman was
Ruzica and the men who grabbed her were bodyguards of General
the Balkan war criminal.
While she and her son
Luka, 10, were held the men used her
mobile phone to tell her husband: touch us and your family will
suffer. Djindjic told his security
chiefs he did not think the warning — clearly from
Mladic, the so-called Butcher of Bosnia
— was serious, in a country where politicians receive threats almost
A link between the killing of the
prime minister by a sniper outside parliament and
Mladic, one of the two men most wanted
by the International Criminal Tribunal in the Hague,
now looks increasingly likely.
former Bosnian Serb commander responsible for the massacre of up to
8,000 Muslims at Srebrenica in 1995, is known to be close to a
former paramilitary commander and underworld
supremo known as Legija and
thought to have been behind the assassination.
The investigators believe
Legija could now be on the run in
Bosnia, using the same military and police networks
established by Mladic to evade capture.
Legija — whose real name is
— knew Mladic from the Bosnian war,
where he commanded some of the most fearsome Serbian paramilitaries
dispatched by the Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic to help shore
up the general’s Bosnian Serb forces.
Both men had reason to feel
Djindjic had betrayed them by preparing
to hand them over to the Hague.
Legija, in particular, felt Djindjic
owed him favours: he went over to the
future prime minister’s side when Milosevic was overthrown in 2000
and led the snatch squad that arrested the former president.
Even after an attempt on his life last
month when a lorry veered towards his convoy on the motorway outside
believed he could keep Legija and his
mob in check.
may have encouraged Legija and helped
him to escape, investigators believe the operation was probably
funded by one of the drug-running gangs that
Legija helped to protect, and was sanctioned by political
forces determined to reassert the old order.
Several diplomats believe police
should probe the links between the Zemun
clan — the gang targeted by the government over the past few days —
and its political warlords in the ultra-nationalist Radical party,
whose leader, Vojislav Seselj, turned
himself in to the Hague last month. Seselj
had warned there would soon be blood on the streets of
Recent police operations ordered by
Djindjic may have helped
Legija make his move. Last month a joint
Serbian and Bosnian Serb swoop on a warehouse near
Tuzla, in Bosnia, uncovered 160 barrels
of a chemical that could be used to make heroin worth more than £1m.
It was said to belong to Legija.
murder police have rounded up a large number of members of the
Belgrade underworld. The police have 30 days to learn
what they can from the likes of Jovica
Stanisic, Milosevic’s former secret
police chief, and Frenki
predecessor as commander of the Red Berets.
In another raid last night
nicknamed “Rat” and one of the leaders of the
Zemun gang, was captured with six of his men in a village
southeast of Belgrade. A quantity of weapons and
several luxury cars were also seized.
Sources close to
Legija said he would soon make a statement proclaiming his
Born in 1962,
Legija graduated from music school — he plays the cello to
concert standard — and made his mark in 1985 by robbing a sports
shop. He fled Yugoslavia and joined the French Foreign
Legion. On returning in 1991 he fought with
Arkan’s Tigers, one of the most feared ethnic cleansing units
in Croatia and Bosnia, and soon graduated to the Red Berets’ special
helped Mladic in the Srebrenica
operation; he is also wanted by the Hague in connection with several
massacres in Kosovo in 1998 and 1999, including at Suva
Reka and the Racak
killings that brought Nato into war with
Yugoslavia. He is blamed, too, for a botched assassination attempt
on Vuk Draskovic,
the opposition leader, in 1999.
As the tide turned against
Milosevic, Legija moved towards
the Djindjic camp. It has never been
revealed what Djindjic promised in
The pair had been at loggerheads since
Djindjic appointed a prosecutor to round
up underworld figures last year. His government drew its illicit
support from the rival Surcin clan.
Democrat party has named Zoran
Zivkovic, a deputy leader, as his
successor in a sign that it intends to continue his pro-western
mourners at what was the biggest funeral procession in Belgrade
since the death of Josip
Broz Tito, the former Yugoslav communist
leader in 1980, was pessimistic about the future. “I’m very afraid
of further possible actions by the mob,” he said.