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Karadzic fans taunt NATO

Karadzic: Hailed by his fans as a Serb
Karadzic: Hailed by his fans as a Serb "Scarlet Pimpernel"

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Radovan Karadzic

BELGRADE, Serbia-Montenegro -- Fans of Radovan Karadzic have taunted NATO after a failed manhunt for the genocide suspect, saying "our people" would keep him from the clutches of the West.

The four-day manhunt was triggered by a tip that the fugitive former Bosnian Serb leader was hurt and needed medical treatment and had to risk going back to one of his most closely watched old haunts at Pale, near Sarajevo.

But there was no sighting of him during the operation in the Bosnian Serb wartime headquarters.

While hastening to say he did not know where the ex-leader was hiding, the head of the "International Committee for Truth on Radovan Karadzic," Kosta Cavoski, said Karadzic and his wartime commander General Ratko Mladic were well guarded.

Both men are wanted by the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague on two counts of alleged genocide for the slaughter of Bosnians in the siege of Sarajevo and the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of up to 8,000 Muslim males.

"I don't know where he is," Cavoski told the weekly Nedeljni Telegraf in an interview published on Wednesday and reported by Reuters.

"And it is not good for me to get interested in his whereabouts because many domestic and foreign agents are following me and tapping my conversations," he added.

Like hardline supporters of the Radical Party, which scored high in the general election in Serbia last month, the Karadzic fan club reveres him as some sort of Scarlet Pimpernel hero, Reuters reports, and is given to occasional statements of bravado on his behalf.

"Our people are guarding both Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic well," Cavoski said. "That is why this action will not succeed and Dr. Karadzic will continue to be in safety, in the myth and legend of the Serb people."

To foil NATO wiretaps, "our people in Republika Srpska speak a lot about Karadzic and his hideouts...boast that they're sitting and drinking coffee with Karadzic," he said.

NATO peacekeepers search vehicles at a checkpoint in Pale on Sunday.
NATO peacekeepers search vehicles at a checkpoint in Pale on Sunday.

"This is driving SFOR intelligence people crazy."

He doubted Karadzic was injured or sick. "As far as I know, Dr. Karadzic is not ill. This summer he had put on some weight, but he has now lost it and is very vital and healthy," he said.

Pale, in the mountains above Sarajevo, was a Serb stronghold during the bloody Bosnian war in the early 1990s.

In 1995, a peace accord signed in Dayton, Ohio, ended the war between Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Serbs. The conflict was Europe's most deadly since World War II. More than 200,000 people died.

According to the War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, 20 indicted suspects are still at large, including former Bosnian Serb President Karadzic and his top general, Ratko Mladic.

The U.N. tribunal indicted the two men for the massacre of up to 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the eastern town of Srebrenica in 1995 and the siege of Sarajevo, in which more than 10,000 people died.

The move by NATO is part of its stepped-up campaign to bring the wartime Bosnian Serb leader and genocide suspect to trial. (Karadzic profile)

Human rights activists have criticized NATO for failing to capture Karadzic and Mladic.

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