BELGRADE (AP)--Serbia announced Tuesday it was launching a war crimes investigation into the activities of a Serbian paramilitary officer arrested in Argentina last week.
Bruno Vekaric, spokesman for Serbia's war crimes prosecutor's office, said Nebojsa Minic, 40, a former member of a notorious Serb paramilitary group, is suspected of taking part in the execution of civilians in Kosovo during the province's 1998-99 war.
Vekaric said the office has launched an investigation into allegations that Minic participated in the slaying of an ethnic Albanian family in the village of Cuska in western Kosovo in 1999.
The investigation could lead to another one by a war crimes court and possible formal charges against Minic. He isn't wanted by the U.N. war crimes court in The Hague, Netherlands.
Minic was arrested last week by Argentinian authorities in the western city of Mendoza following a tip from the U.S.-based Human Right Watch. Police had followed Minic for three months before the arrest.
Argentinian authorities detained Minic on charges of illegal entry and forged papers. A war crimes investigation in Belgrade would probably lead to an extradition demand by the Serbian authorities.
Minic was identified by a Belgrade-based group, the Humanitarian Law Fund, as a suspect in scores of murders committed by Serb paramilitaries in Kosovo.
According to the group, Minic was known as "Commander Death" in the western Kosovo town of Pec. The organization had said they had reliable evidence that Minic took part in the slayings. The Human Rights Watch apparently had similar information, the group said.
It wasn't clear when Minic fled. Serb forces under former President Slobodan Milosevic cracked down on Kosovo's majority ethnic Albanians in 1998-99 to suppress a separatist rebellion.
Thousands of people, mostly ethnic Albanians, were killed in the crackdown. The brutality of the Serb troops prompted the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to bomb Serbia for 78 days in 1999 to force Milosevic to pull out his troops from Kosovo and relinquish control to the U.N. and NATO.
Kosovo has since been run by the U.N. and NATO peacekeepers although it remains officially part of Serbia-Montenegro. [ 31-05-05 1121GMT ]