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AN alleged Serbian war criminal who went under the name of 'Mrtvi' (Death) during the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo has been arrested, Interpol confirmed yesterday.
Media reports have linked Nebojsa Minic, 40, to crimes against ethnic Albanians in the city of Pec, where he led a paramilitary squad that reportedly raped, killed and looted its victims, including children, as Nato bombers attacked Serbia in the spring of 1999. His alleged crimes have also been documented by Human Rights Watch, which has been campaigning since 1999 for him to stand trial in Serbia.
Held two weeks ago in Mendoza on charges of carrying fake documents under the alias of Vlada Radiojevic, he is being held in expectation of an extradition request from Serbia, although this may be slow in coming.
'We have no warrant pending for his arrest,' said Argentina's Interpol chief, Luis Fuensalida. 'The only charge against him concerns the fake alias he was living under. We know he has a criminal record in Belgrade for drug and arms trafficking, but there is no request for his capture related to this or on charges of crimes against humanity.'
Minic arrived in Argentina from Chile in September 2003. Since his arrest, he has been in hospital under armed guard, said to be suffering from cancer and undergoing treatment for an Aids-related condition, but he could be released if an extradition order does not arrive. 'There is no reason to keep holding him,' said his lawyer, Alejandra Ruiz. 'I expect him to be released under house arrest.'
According to press reports, Minic was turned in by an Argentinian lover furious at having contracted HIV from the fugitive. 'This woman had been harassing my client with death threats before she revealed his presence to the police,' Ruiz said.
The heavily tattooed Minic at first claimed his name was Vlada Radiojevic. But police sources said that he later confessed to one of his captors: 'I was a much tougher policeman than you are.'
In Kosovo, Minic sported a tattoo on his chest with the Serbian words for 'dead' and 'dead man', but has had it erased, according to sources in Mendoza.
His history as a gangster back to his teenage years, but his name first turned up associated to war crimes during the mass killings in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica in 1995, where Bosnian Serb soldiers murdered more than 7,000 men and boys. Media reports state that Minic was seen escorting truckloads of civilians to mass execution sites.
But the accusation against him by Human Rights Watch involves the killing of the family of a Kosovar Albanian butcher from Pec named Isa Bala in June 1999.
'We are the men with no names. We're probably going to die ourselves, but first we are going to have our fun,' Minic is said to have told Bala, demanding a large sum of money in exchange for sparing his family. Bala handed over his life's savings, but Minic's men murdered four of his children, his niece and his sister-in-law.