14 years a fugitive: the hunt for Ratko Mladic, the Butcher of Bosnia | Julian Borger

The long speak: The Bosnian Serb general is accused of killing thousands of civilians at Srebenica and Sarajevo the worst transgressions in Europe since the Nazi era. Julian Borger tells the inside story of how he evaded capture for so long and was finally caught

In July 1997, a Yugoslav army officer mentioned Milan Gunj received an pressing phone call at home in Belgrade. Something strange was incident at work and he was needed immediately.

Staff Sergeant Gunjs job could best be described as that of an infantry hotelier. He had risen through the ranks from barracks concoct and caterer to the rather charming project of looking after a fibre of gated and patrolled vacation homes the Yugoslav military has all along been provided for its top brass. The male announcing him on this summer period was a soldier “whos working” in one of these bucolic withdraws, at a region called Rajac in the wooded mountains of central Serbia. Some sudden clients had arrived. The soldier dared not say any more on the phone, but he was insistent Gunj come as soon as possible.

A few moments afterwards, he received a second entitle. This time it was from an aide in the part of the Yugoslav chief of the general staff, telling Gunj to get to Rajac immediately and enter into negotiations with his visitors. He would be told what he needed to know when he arrived. He went in his vehicle and leader south.

Two hours later, he arrived at Rajac after nightfall and determined a group of about a dozen forearmed servicemen in civilian invests milling around the entrance, and then the reason for all the pretext came striding out of the hotel vestibule, as if he had just commandeered the place: the unmistakable barrel-chested digit and blunt ruddy appearance Gunj had seen in a hundred news reports of the Bosnian war General Ratko Mladi.

I was somewhat surprised, fright, and confused by this turn of events, Gunj recalled. First of all, because this was in my complex, and I had no information that this would happen. And secondly, I know that Mr Ratko Mladi has been accused of certain deeds by the Hague tribunal. So at that point in time I was in a state of panic.

Gunj was by no means alone in seeming horror in Mladis presence. The general tolerate accused of the worst cruelties Europe had evidenced since the Nazi era. The Bosnian Serb general had overseen three years of the Sarajevo siege and the daily attrition of its residents by shelling and sniper fervour. He was also there when the Muslim enclave of Srebrenica was overrun by his troops in July 1995. Presenting himself as relevant instruments of national vengeance, he affirmed the sacking of Srebrenica as payback against the Turks for a pogrom of Serbs for the purposes of the Ottoman empire. Mladi reassured panicked captive Muslim women that their loved ones “wouldve been” safe at the same age that his soldiers were rounding up and slaughtering 8,000 spouses and sons. The beetroot-faced patrolman who had turned up to stay at Gunjs vacation home was “the worlds” most wanted man.

Mladi and his suite bided for a month in Rajac before starting again in the middle of the nighttime for another armed used, at Stragari, near the city of Kragujevac, a more elaborate sylvan hideout with sports grounds, wading pool, and table tennis. For the well being of hunters, the encircling groves were stocked with deer and mouflon, a species of wild sheep with flamboyantly curved horns.

General Djordje urin, an old-time category acquaintance of Mladi, described a usual date with the fugitive: We talked, we moved through the groves, we played some chess. We likewise played cards, table tennis. We had lunch. And then we moved some more.

Such was the determination of the Yugoslav general staff to keep Mladi both comfy and hidden that an entire district, the 30 th Personnel Centre, originally set up to oversee the social welfare of former Bosnian Serb officers, was tasked with looking after him. A substantial personal protection force was established.

There was a reward of$ 5m on Mladis head, and it was considered necessary to set up a gang that would protect him from various bounty hunters and crooks. This unit was attached to the 30 th Personnel Centre in Belgrade and have been incorporated into Republika Srpska army members, at times about 100 of them, said Jovo Djogo, a former man with “the centres activities” who went on to be Mladis personal security chief.

The Yugoslav government of Slobodan Miloevi staunchly repudiated any responsibility for the mass atrocities committed by the Bosnian Serb armed, but the elaborated assess taken in Belgrade to tend to Mladis safety and comfort after the struggle are a testament to close ties. In the consequences of the the Bosnian war, the Yugoslav army was an overwhelmingly Serb force. And as far as its commanders were concerned, Mladi was one of them.

Along with a formidable phalanx of sentries, Mladi had a driver, his own concoct, even his own personal attendant who would wandering with him back to Rajac in the late wintertime of each year. When the season was over and the deer hunters had departed, the suite would recall like a moving tribunal. During this period, Mladi also invested a considerable amount of time in Belgrade, at their own families residence on Blagoja Parovia Street in the upmarket suburbium of Koutnjak. He went out to restaurants and football matches in the Serbian uppercase. Video of these days establishes a tighten Mladi playing table tennis at Stragari, theatrically ruing a missed fire, and is president of household celebrations.

The men and women who helped keep the fugitive general in this contented bubble pictured him as a national hero, representing the martial excellences of Serb mythologies from other eras. Somehow they managed to persuade themselves that within this petroleum stub of a follower was an repetition of Serbias heroic age. But just in case their allegiance should ever waver, the latter are presented photographs of “their childrens” a characteristically direct reminder of the high price pay back informants.

Ratko

Mladi in Srebrenica on 12 July 1995. He reassured panicked captive Muslim dames that their loved ones would be safe at the same meter that his soldiers were rounding up and slaughtering 8,000 husbands and sons. Photo: Artwork Zamur/ Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

In his 14 years on the run, Mladi depended on a succession of institutions and radicals to retain him from being captured: first the Serbian military foundation; then a closer coterie of his Bosnian Serb wartime lieutenants; and finally, when those concentric echoes fell away, like strata of a shriveled onion, his troubled family. But the common factor was fear.

***

Mladi was born in conflict situations . He was the wartime child of a Partisan family in the mountains south-east of Sarajevo. His father, Nedja, was killed in 1945 in a battle with actions of the Nazi-backed Ustasha. After a short apprenticeship as a tinsmith, Mladi followed him into the military, going to man academy and dominating Yugoslav army units in Macedonia and Kosovo.

By the time the country disintegrated in 1991, Mladi was a colonel and was sent to fight for the Yugoslav army against Croat separatist forces. There he prevailed a reputation for heroism bordering on recklessness personally extending demining expeditions, for example. When the war spilled into Bosnia the following year, Mladi and his fellow Bosnian Serb policemen changed outfits and insignia, moving formal faithfulnes overnight from Yugoslavia to the breakaway Republika Srpska. But members of the mission and eventual governor remained the same, curbing territory for Serbs under a chain of command that preceded the whole way up to President Miloevi in Belgrade.

As a newly minted general, Mladi helped lop off and bombard his former neighbours in Sarajevo in May 1992, embarking a long time municipality besiege in modern combat. Three-and-a-half years later, 10,000 of the citys tenants would be dead. At Radovan Karadis side as the head of the Bosnian Serb army, he conducted a relentless safarus to mutilate Bosnia and establish an ethnically pure Republika Srpska. But General Mladi was never so busy with the struggle that he could not take the occasional weekend off to romp board games and loosen with his wife and two grown children, Darko and Ana, whom he retained safe in Belgrade.

At these activity nighttimes , no one was allowed to mention politics or the struggle, but that did not stop the conflict from plucking the family apart. Ana was in her early 20 s and had fallen in love with a young physician a human rights activist who conceived his putative father-in-law to be a conflict felon. He was able to marriage Ana if she repudiated her father-god. Unable to do that or to give up her nightmares of charity and wedding, she took her leaders favourite pistol from its display case after a night of board game in February 1994 and shot herself.

Mladi could not accept his daughters suicide. He saw solace instead in plot conjectures that threw the blamed on his adversaries. It was a conviction that took the burden of guilt off his shoulders and deepened a basin of hatred toward non-Serbs.

***

The Serb generals in the Yugoslav military organisation stood ready to shelter Mladi , no matter what scandalizing deeds he was accused of, but at the turn of the millennium, Serbia itself was experiencing rapid change. Miloevi had been demolished in Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia, and then again in 1999, in Kosovo, supposedly the cradle of Serb civilisation. The dream of a Greater Serbia had collapsed, leaving an impoverished rump.

Miloevis fall from dominance on 5 October 2000, and his give to The Hague the following June, specified Mladi on edge. He had been no devotee of Miloevi, but the regime had plied him with succour and protecting, and now it was gone. urin recalled that on the night when Mr Miloevi was arrested, he was in his own residence, in his own suite, and that night he left. When I read him later on and spoke with him, he was visibly concerned for his security and the safety of the people close to him. And he was determined not to surrender alive.

Mladi was shrewd enough to realise that he could no longer rely on the Belgrade government to protect him. He hurriedly moved camp to yet another basi, Krmar, near Valjevo, a Tito-era refuge set in countryside every bit as moderately as Stragari, but with stronger forts and underground bunkers. From now on, Mladi would be in unending withdraw, as the post- Miloevi government in Belgrade steadily alleged its sovereignty over the countrys protection apparatus. It formally swore Mladis retirement from the military in March 2002, and early the following month a decree was emerge legalising cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia( ICTY ). The period when Mladi could live out his time on the run in the armys indulgence spas was fast to access to an end.

Reluctantly, members of the general told Mladi he would have to leave Krmar, but his initial response was disregard mixed with delusion. He told his protectors to hold their sand, provoking an apprehensive standoff in May 2002, during which the military forces sounded the base with helicopters in tease attacks intended to sounds him into leaving. On 1 June, Mladi finally bowed to the pressure and negotiated safe transition out of the basi, while the military forces agreed to provide a convoy of staff automobiles to take him to his next hideout.

Mladi left behind the comforts of full armed safety and embarked on a steady swoop into lonelines and privation. His support network shrunk nearly overnight from the entire Yugoslav military to a handful of old compatriots from the Bosnian war.

People

People leading for spread from Serb sniper fire in Sarajevo in 1993. Ten 000 people were killed during the three-year besiege of the city by forces for the purposes of the authority of Ratko Mladic. Photo: Chris Helgren/ Reuters

The network was run from day to day by Djogo. This former Bosnian Serb colonel and devout Mladi loyalist was from the same Bosnian district, and he succeeded the rental of a series of accommodations for members of the general in the warren of tower blocks in New Belgrade. Green studies, woodland saunters, and the life of a privileged military ex-serviceman were replaced by the concrete actualities of city Serbia.

After the army said they would not look after him, he went to Jovo Djogo and a small unit of people who cared for him, said Mladis lawyer Milo alji. In New Belgrade, he stayed inside the apartment and he was introduced meat and papers, and unlike in the military facilities, his family couldnt come to see him.

The rented accommodations had very precise descriptions, recalled Miodrag Miki Raki, the Serbian presidential aide-de-camp who coordinated the hunt. They had to be in large-scale houses, but they could not be on the first floor, or on the top floor. He craved good-for-nothing with security guards or protection cameras.

It was an unsettled world for the first few months, until the network located an apartment on Yuri Gagarin Street that Mladi detected safe in. He was living just a few doors down from Karadi two deserters from massacre indicts in the seat of a few impedes. Despite the proximity, there is no evidence the two spanned paths. They could not bear one another by this time, and investigates believe that there was little or no overlap between their corroborate networks.

The two men too approached the life of a fugitive with entirely different strategies. Karadi hid in plain sight, for the purposes of the flamboyant accepted identity of a new age healer. Mladi hunkered down and maintained armed self-discipline, censoring the use of mobile phones in the apartment and rarely venturing out, except for an occasional night foot along the Sava River with Darko, his only living child.

Meanwhile, for the few of men and women in Mladis inner circle, he was a demanding client. He missed heated milk and honey early in the morning before his activities. He compelled all his nutrient to be fresh, bought the same day it was expended. If “its been” uneaten by the evening, it was thrown away. Fruit and veggies had to be bought from a range of stalls on the disconcert dirts that their purchase from a single supplier would somehow arouse suspicion.

For most of his time in hiding, Mladi was careful about his appearance, shaving and grooming every day. One of his minders formerly asked about why he inconvenienced. After all, it was not as if he was viewing business meetings, she said. He replied that the mode you looked at the moment of your extinction is exactly what you would look for the eternity of the afterlife. He was squeamish about his teeth more, but for more mundane rationales. He panicked a errand to a dentist would accommodation his security.

***

Such were the parameters of Mladis life until 12 March 2003, when the whole country was submerge back into disarray by sudden savagery. Zoran Djindji, Serbias prime minister, was shot by a sniper as he ambled into a government building in Belgrade, killed on the orders of a consortium of paramilitary mob presidents and violation superiors. They envisaged the assassination as a preemptive impres against Djindjis plans to smash organised crime and his readiness to cooperate with the Hague tribunal.

The Djindji filming came as an ugly offend to a country craving normality after Miloevis years of turmoil and bloodshed, and there was a backlash from the mainstream security forces that his murderers could not have foreseen. The brandish of more than 13,000 seizes that followed came sufficiently close to Mladis network for him to tighten his house rules further and further. Up to this detail, his close safety crew had bided with him, sometimes sleeping on the floor. After Djindjis assassination, Mladi changed accommodations but did not take the bodyguards with him. They were prevented a phone call away, with exclusively one minder at a time knowing his address.

There were a handful of such minders, men and women who each did stints of a few months. It was constructed plateau to them that if Mladi were discovered the skepticism would fall on them. They were presented with gift-wrapped photographs of “their childrens” or grandchildren and reminds the public that Mladis associates knew where they lived and was just going academy. It was the most ruthless and effective threat imaginable, and Mladis servicemen applied it liberally.

When menaces came from the Mladi camp, there was every reason to take them seriously. The men who extradited them had an indisputable history of violence, and there is evidence that parties were killed to ensure that Mladis whereabouts remained a secret.

On 5 October 2004, two soldiers, Dragan Jakovljevi and Draen Milovanovi, were found shot dead at their berths at the barracks in Topider, a district of Belgrade. The hasty military investigation that followed concluded that they had got into a fight in which one of them had shot the other and then killed himself out of remorse.

Amid public clamor, a civilian committee of inquiry was set up but it stopped running into a stone wall of hostility from members of the general. The felony stage was destroyed by the army. According to the Belgrade lawyer who headed the commission on human rights, a colonel in military knowledge approached one member of the commission and said: You have two nice daughters. Why are you construct trouble?

In the end, the commission on human rights concluded that both soldiers had been shot by a third party, without any conclusions on who that third party was. The victims parents became convinced that they had been slaughtered because they had come across proof that Mladi was being hiding in the labyrinth of underground passageways beneath the barracks.

Topider is a virtual underground city, excavated by the Tito regime in the bowels of a mound in central Belgrade, and it is where Miloevi took shelter during the course of its Nato bombing in 1999. After the Bosnian conflict, part of the complex was induced the seat of the 30 th Personnel Centre, until it was formally disbanded in March 2002. Some investigators believe it continued to function off the books, as a darknes division, long after that date.

By mid-2 005, Mladi was back on Yuri Gagarin Street in another suite and notion increasingly bumpy. In September that time, sleuths afterward detected, a polouse constructing routine asks about an accident in the tower block knocked on his opening, adding to Mladis paranoia. In December 2005, he was moved to Ljuba, a village near the north Serbian township of Sremska Mitrovica, where 1 of his system of defenders retained countries around the world cottage. It seems to have been a frantic appraise, are aiming to salvage both Mladis sanity and the mental health of his perpetually scared and molested minders.

The urban interlude was suddenly, maybe because Ljuba was too small a community in which to hide at a time when the walls of Mladis cloistered life were shutting in. That month Djogo was apprehended along with eight of the generals affiliates. Mladi hurriedly stopped the network that had supported him until then, accepting it to be endangered. In the dead of night on 4 February 2006, he turned up on the outskirts of Belgrade at the accommodation of his brother-in-law, Krsto Jegdi. Pressing the intercom, he announced himself simply as the person from Bosnia. Jegdi expected it was a brother who lived in eastern Bosnia and buzzed him in, only to find Mladi on his doorstep, carrying a backpack and a duffel bag, which contained his constant comrades, a Heckler& Koch machine gun and two pistols.

Mladi was clearly nervous and had aged dramatically since Jegdi had last read him, but that didnt stop the general from barking guilds. He cast Jegdis son down to dismissed the move who had created him there, and while the adolescent was away, Mladi made a comment that showed the boys life might be in danger if he was given away.

Mladi

Mladi graffiti on a wall up Belgrade in 2011. Picture: Alexa Stankovic/ AFP/ Getty Images

On this moment, Mladis customary jeopardy backfired. Jegdis wife was furious and held she would not share her residence with a relative who made such menaces. Instead, Jegdi offered to drive his unwanted visitor to the house of another Jegdi brother, Miroslav, who lived about 30 km away, in the village of Mala Motanica.

Mala Motanica is a alluring agreement not far from the Sava River, its residences sown across a few square miles of undulating woodland. Miroslav Jegdis house is three unfinished fibs of red-faced brick and specific balconies without railings. “Theres” cherry trees in the back and a grapevine climbing up a rickety improvised trellis on the west wall. Its owner returned to his native Macedonia in 2011 to escape the disrepute of the Mladi connection, and since then the members of this house has degraded to an empty shell.

When I called in 2013, Miroslavs sister-in-law, Djuka Jegdi, emerged from a residence only down the path to quiz me, hoping my translator and I , notepads in hand, were estate agents from Belgrade. The kinfolk had been trying to sell and leave for years.

Djuka repudiated reports that she used to concoct meals for Mladi and Miroslav and take them in all the regions of the trail in the evenings, insisting that she had only found out about members of the general proximity years later, after his arrest. She surrendered afterward in our conversation that her husband, Vukasin, had told her that Mladi was hiding in Miroslavs house, but she did not guess him because his judgment were increasingly erratic.

He started having hallucinations, and I thought this was just another hallucination. He would imagine “hes seen” different kinds of people, she said. In retrospect, she blamed the pressure of Mladis presence and heavy-handed police tactics for his breakdown.

Once they came and took us both away and we couldnt forewarn our 15 -year-old son, so he thought we had disappeared, waiting for us in the house on his own, she said, mourning at the reminiscence. In one happen in April 2006, soldiers from the Security Information Agency( known as the BIA) cleaned noisily into Mala Motanica in an early-morning attack. Mladi, searching down through the wooden-slatted screens of his second-floor window, must have thoughts his time has at last come, simply to check the heavily armed agents cluster around the wrong mansion, belonging to the incorrect Jegdi Vukasin.

A western investigate who was involved in the hunt said, The 2006 raid was either monumentally stupid, or deliberate a mode of reminding Mladi to move out, while looking busy for the well being of Carla Del Ponte[ the chief prosecutor of war crimes in former Yugoslavia ].

Foul-up or plot, Mladi got away. He declined out of the back door into the lumbers to recall the next morning. A couple of days later, “hed left” Mala Motanica for good.

***

With every extending month and each successive hiding place, nonetheless, the climate in Serbia was proliferating colder for Mladi. His friends in the army were adjourning from the ranks, the public was forgetting about him, annoying more about Serbias increasing solitude, and the political currents were turning against him. Djindjis former deputy, Boris Tadi, was elected president in June 2004 by exhausted voters who learnt hope in searching west towards the European union, even at the price of ceding Serb deserters to The Hague. In the summer of 2008, new elections put reformists in the ministries and in charge of security rights apparatus for the first time.

The arising euphoria at the ICTY rendered said that he hoped Mladis capture would follow soon after. But the optimism was groundless. The general was much more careful and deeply hidden. Even under brand-new handling, the BIA persevered with old-fashioned techniques, cranking up the pressure on the Mladi family.

In November 2008, when Mladis son Darkos computer systems firm tried to closed an 8oo, ooo business agreement with a Serbian companionship, the would-be partners factories in the western municipality of Valjevo were attacked and scoured for five hours by the police, intimidating it away from the treat. Darkos wife, Biljana, determined her profession as a application expert in Serbias telecommunications corporation starting to suffer, and she used demoted from the Belgrade headquarters to a suburban outpost.

None of the pressure laboured , nor was it ever likely to. No family member was going to betray Mladi, especially since they had a shield far more powerful than the BIA: Russias Federal Security Bureau( FSB ). In Vladimir Putins Russia, the snoop bureau the heir to Putins old-time employer, the KGB took a protective those who are interested in Mladi for a variety of reasons. Moscow accompanied him as a Slav armed hero being hunted by western powers trying to deepen their force in Serbia, an age-old Russian friend. Harmonizing to a zero-sum approach to world affairs, the wests gain in captivating Mladi would be Russias strategic lost. Additionally, the Russians were anxious of what Mladi might reveal about Russian support for the Republika Srpska at the high levels of ethnic cleansing.

The BIA spies tracking the Mladi support network found themselves increasingly playing spy versus agent with the FSB. Each time we got close to getting one of the person or persons in his halo to collaborate, they would go for a long session at the Russian delegation and come out of it with cold feet about talking to us, remembered Miodrag Raki, “the mens” entrusted with responsibilities for guiding the manhunt during the Tadi presidency. He suspected that Russia was constituting regular remittances to the Mladi family and entourage to allay the financial pressure on them to give away the generals whereabouts.

TV

TV footage of Mladi at a party during his times on the run. Photo: FTV

Raki likewise seemed the unmistakable proximity of the FSB searching over his shoulder. In 2008, he and a peer made a clandestine excursion to the Hague tribunal examined the Mladi event. They operated a roundabout roadway and Dutch protection officers drove them straight into the tribunals underground car park. On his comeback, nonetheless, Raki received a visit from one of Mladis supporters in the security services, forewarning him that his family would be in peril if he continued to cooperate with the court. Lest there be any mistrust over the seriousness of the threat, he recited details of Rakis young sons daily routine.

Shocked at security threats, Raki angrily disavowed he was are working with special courts, contending “hes never” even been to The Hague. Without a word, the visitor took a piece of paper and attracted a diagram of a seminar counter. Then he wrote out the figure of every person who had attended his meeting in The Hague, expressing precise where each of them had sitting next. Raki described it as “the worlds largest” chilling time of their own lives. From that minute on, until his death from cancer in 2014, he wandered with a two-man shield team.

There was little doubt in his memory that merely the FSB had the sophistication to imbue the Hague Tribunal so thoroughly. So in 2010, Raki decided to confront the Russians head-on. At global conferences in Moscow he buttonholed Nikolai Patrushev, Putins spymaster, a former heads of state of the FSB, and the secretary of Russias Security Council.

I experience a very cold wind in our appearance coming from the east, Raki told Patrushev. The Russian claim the protection for Mladi had been sanctioned higher up, clearly making Putin himself. In the Kremlin, there was no one higher than Patrushev.

I will talk to my foremen and Ill do what I can, Patrushev offered. Whatever was said or be done in order to Putins security cabinet, it clearly made a difference. Russian support for the Mladi network removed off. Even Moscow was cutting members of the general loose.

***

Mladis life as a deserter dissolved in the run-down farmhouse of his cousin Branislav, in a northern Serbian hamlet appointed Lazarevo. Living in a single cluttered chamber warmed simply by a small electric heater, his health took a steep submerge and Branislav experienced him sprawled on the floor the working day after an self-evident apoplexy. But Mladi, still more frightened of captivate than of a lonesome and squalid death, refused to be taken to hospital. By now his isolation was nearly total. He permitted neither his wife nor his son to visit. But despite all these precautions, it was family sentiment that generated him away in the end.

On 6 May, 2008, Darko returned “their childrens”, Anastasija and Stefan, to trip the country cousins in Lazarevo for St Georges Day, a significant vacation in Serbia. The party was at another cousins home but the family made a detour to Branislavs home, strolling into the center quadrangle and digesting around with no obvious purpose for 20 hours before leaving, to the puzzlement of the policemen trailing them. Exclusively after Mladis arrest did it become clear what they were doing.

He was watching them through the window. He wasnt well. He couldnt make “their childrens” realise him but he had the desire to see them, Tadi said. Then the Mladi family phoned Lazarevo twice in three days. Why two times? That is what eventually took us to that house.

At dawn on 26 May 2011, plainclothes officers from a special war crimes group of the Interior Ministry went to the village to attack the cousins houses.

Two of them clambered the stairs in Branislavs house and found one door hard to open. There was something or someone behind it. When they pushed it open, they discovered an untidy area that was clearly resided. They gazed behind the door to receive an old boy in a black baseball detonator standing behind it.

The officers asked for his identity card and the old man sided it over. It had the figure Ratko Mladi on it, but the men still could not believe it. This wizened flesh gazed nothing like the swaggering general they had expected.

Mladi

Mladi in Belgrade after his 2011 seize. Photo: EPA

Who are you? they demanded.

You have found who youre go looking for, “the mens” replied with a flash of defiance. Im Ratko Mladi. It was the end of 14 years on the run.

Mladi had at one point told his elderly cousin Branislav to shoot him rather than let him be taken alive. He even demonstrated him the grease-gun he was supposed to use. But Branislav was out on the morning of the two arrested. Anyway, Branislav told alji, he could never have brought himself to pull the trigger. Neither, as it turned out, could Mladi. His Heckler& Koch was known lying among unclean socks at the bottom of a wardrobe.

President Tadi was doing his morning exercisings when he got the entitle from Saa Vukadinovi, the BIA chief who was on an official see to Washington at the time but was being kept informed by his office.

I think we got Mladi, Vukadinovi said. The ailing captive was at that moment being driven from Lazarevo to Belgrade in a police car. By now, the president was in a state of excite. The hunt for Mladi had come to define his presidency. For more than five years old he had been under pressure from the countries of the world to make this arrest. If this truly was the missing general, it would be the climatic minute of his career.

He asked if a DNA research “couldve been” done, but was notified the results could take days. What other manifestation have you got? Tadi wanted to know.

The people who arrested him say its him, Vukadinovi replied. And well send photos when he gets here.

Little more than an hour afterward, the mugshots were moved, downloaded, engraved on personal computers, and raced into Tadi.

The president took one look at them and instant declared, This is Ratko Mladi!

alji was summoned to the special war crimes courtroom in Belgrade, to encounter his long-lost patron. When he penetrated Mladis cell, he was sickened. He actually ogled blue-blooded and his lip and face were twisted. I wouldnt have recognised him on wall street, the lawyer echoed. On learning him, the old person digested up and clung to alji, sobbing.

The next morning, Raki wreaked the hostage breakfast and family photos. He was terrified. He asked me if I was going to kill him. I said: No Im only wreaking you breakfast, Raki said. He tried to use the moment of vulnerability to ask the captivated fugitive about the networks that helped hide him. The captive snarled back: Youve got me. What is it you people want with these beings? These beings relinquished themselves for me. Let them go.

aljis attempts to forestall Mladis transfer to The Hague on health soils miscarried, but a Belgrade judge did grant the defeated general his last-place application on Serbian clay, to visit the tomb of his daughter, Ana, the vulnerable young woman who had killed herself seven years earlier with his favourite pistol.

Mladi was given 45 instants at the grave and his minders receded a respectful distance, organizing a sombre ring around him. You could see his lips move, Raki remembered. He was speaking to her.

This is an extract from The Butchers Trail by Julian Borger, published today by Other Press( PS17. 99 ). To tell a imitation for PS13. 99, going to see bookshop.theguardian.com or announce 0330 333 6846. Free UK p& p over PS10, online prescribes merely. Phone tells min. p& p of PS1. 99.

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