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Karadzic evades NATO arrest

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (CNN) -- Wanted war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic has evaded a massive NATO operation to track him down in a remote Bosnian village.

NATO-led peacekeepers mobilised on Thursday around Celebici, about 70 kilometres (42 miles) southeast from the capital Sarajevo.

However, NATO spokesman Daryl Morrell told CNN that they did not find Karadzic, Bosnia's former wartime leader, in a compound where intelligence had suggested he would be.

"The operation is now completed and we do not have him contained."

It was the first time that NATO had attempted to seize Karadzic.

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Inside the compound, troops found three weapons caches, including anti-tank rockets, anti-personnel mines and other heavy artillery, Morrell said.

Karadzic was indicted by the War Crimes Tribunal six years ago, with Bosnian-Serb commander Ratko Mladic, for the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of up to 8,000 Muslim men and boys. Mladic remains at large.

CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour said there was increasing pressure to bring the pair to justice.

"Now that the tribunal has (former Yugoslav president Slobodan) Milosevic in the dock, the prosecutor (Carla del Ponte) is being more and more direct in her demands that the two most wanted suspects be brought in now," Amanpour said.

Local Bosnian media earlier reported that the area surrounding Celebici and nearby Foca had been cut off with road blocks. Telephone lines were also put out of service.

The NATO-led Stabilisation Force (SFOR) has kept the peace in Bosnia since its 1992-95 war and also provides support for international officials trying to foster inter-ethnic co-operation.

Its mandate allows troops to arrest suspected war criminals if they encounter them.

Morrell would not comment on reports from Bosnian Serb TV that there were explosions and gunfire near Celebici. He did say there were no injuries during the operation.

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

Roads in a radius of about 40 kilometres (25 miles) from Celebici had been blocked and the local population was told not to leave their homes.

Local phone lines were cut, said reporters approaching the region.

In Belgrade, the state Yugoslav news agency Tanjug reported a "large" peacekeeping force in the region.

SFOR and NATO said they remained "committed to bringing all people indicted for war crimines to justice and urge the government of the Republic of Srpska to fulfil its commitment to the Dayton Accords by turning in these indicted individuals."

The 1995 Dayton peace accord divided post-war Bosnia into two highly autonomous regions -- a Muslim-Croat federation and a Serb republic, each with its own government, parliament, army and police -- under a loose umbrella government.

Former NATO supreme commander Wesley Clark told CNN there was always a risk of increasing instability in the region, but that NATO had to sometimes set aside that risk and "take the opportunity" of finding Karadzic.



 
 
 
 





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