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Milosevic: Architect of Balkans carnage

Serb leader presided over ethnic cleansing in Bosnia

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Milosevic makes a point during his four-year trial at The Hague.

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(CNN) -- Former Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic was regarded as the chief architect of the carnage unleashed during the breakup of Yugoslavia.

Milosevic, who died at the age of 64 Saturday in custody at The Hague, Netherlands, was on trial for war crimes in the killing fields of the Balkan states of Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo.

Milosevic rose through the Communist Party ranks to become leader of the Serbian republic and then the leader of multirepublic Yugoslavia. He was president when hundreds of thousands of people were killed and millions were forced to leave their homes as the fall of communism opened the door to ethnic and religious strife.

Today, communist Yugoslavia is no more, broken into several independent states, including Serbia and Montenegro, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia. But in the 1990s its breakup generated savage bloodshed unseen on the continent since World War II.

The term "ethnic cleansing" became synonymous with Bosnia. Serb forces there, loyal to the Serbian Orthodox Milosevic, tried to carve out a separate state by forcing out the non-Serb civilian population.

They did it by bombarding towns and cities, including Sarajevo, with heavy artillery, besieging villages and massacring civilians.

Snipers targeted men, women and children. Markets full of people shopping were shelled. There were concentration camps, mass rape and the forced prostitution of women and girls.

The violence peaked with the Bosnian Serb assault on the tiny Muslim village of Srebrenica. The International Red Cross says that about 7,000 Muslim men and boys remain unaccounted for. (Full story)

Radovan Karadzic and his military chief, Ratko Mladic, Bosnian Serb leaders controlled by Milosevic, were twice indicted for genocide and crimes against humanity. They remain at large.

In 1995, after NATO conducted bombing raids to stop the Bosnian Serbs, Milosevic became the West's partner in the peace that was forged in Dayton, Ohio. But he was as notorious a peace partner as he was a war maker. Having lost both Croatia and Bosnia, Milosevic in 1998 launched one more military campaign, this time in the tiny Serbian province of Kosovo. It was his undoing.

NATO again took up arms to stop him. After 78 days of bombing, Milosevic capitulated.

NATO forces and the U.N. administration took over Kosovo. Hundreds of thousands of deported Albanian residents came home, and survivors started looking for their dead. The war crimes tribunal started on-site investigations.

After losing Kosovo, Milosevic called new elections -- a grave miscalculation.

After supporting him for 10 bloody years, the Yugoslav people had now had enough and voted Milosevic out. Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to celebrate his downfall and the end of what many called their nightmare years.

Milosevic's downfall paved the way for his arrest. By April 2001, only a few hundred die-hards mustered the will to protest against his being sent to Belgrade's central prison.

He had been indicted for war crimes in May 1999 by the tribunal at The Hague. Yugoslavia's government also accused him of corruption, political killings, election fraud, money laundering and, most recently, war crimes.

In June 2001 Belgrade sent Milosevic to the war crimes tribunal at The Hague. His trial started there in February 2002 and was continuing at the time of his death.

Milosevic -- who earned a law degree from the University of Belgrade in 1964 -- defended himself during the trial. He was feisty and combative during the lengthy hearing.

Milosevic was born August 29, 1941, in Pozarevac, Serbia, the son of Svetozar and Stanislava Milosevic.

He married Mirjana Markovic, a top official in the neo-communist Yugoslav Left party and had two children, Marko and Marija.

After law school, he became a cog in the Yugoslav Communist Party apparatus.

Milosevic spent the early part of his career as an executive and subsequently director of the Yugoslav state-owned gas company, Technogas, from 1968 to 1978. He was a member of the board of directors of Beobank -- United Bank of Belgrade from 1978 to 1982.

He was appointed chief of the Belgrade Communist Party in 1984 and named leader of the Serbian Communist Party in 1987.

Milosevic hinted at his future mission as a self-styled defender of "Greater Serbia" when he promised a crowd of riotous Serbs in Kosovo province that the Albanians "will never beat you again."

In 1989 he was elected president of the Serbian Republic -- the first of two terms. He was elected president of the Yugoslav federation in 1997.

In 1989 he inspired violent Serbian demonstrations that drove out the constitutionally elected leaders of the Serbian provinces of Vojvodina and Kosovo.

After Yugoslav republics of Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia-Herzegovina declared independence in the early 1990s, troops under Milosevic's command carried out "ethnic cleansing," which Milosevic was accused of continuing later in Kosovo.

CNN's Christiane Amanpour contributed to this report.

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