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War crimes fugitive Mladic arrested

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Ratko Mladic, Europe's most wanted war crimes fugitive, has been arrested in Serbia

Ratko Mladic, Europe's most wanted war crimes fugitive, has been arrested in Serbia

A boy walks past graffiti of war crimes fugitive Ratko Mladic in Belgrade (AP)

A boy walks past graffiti of war crimes fugitive Ratko Mladic in Belgrade (AP)

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Ratko Mladic, Europe's most wanted war crimes fugitive, has been arrested in Serbia

Ratko Mladic, the ruthless Bosnian Serb military leader charged with orchestrating Europe's worst massacre of civilians since the Second World War, has been arrested.

He was held before dawn at the home of a relative in a tiny Serbian village after a 16-year hunt for the architect of what a war-crimes judge called "scenes from hell".

He appeared at a closed session in a Belgrade court on Thursday evening, looking frail and walking slowly as he was escorted by two guards.

He wore a navy-blue jacket and a baseball hat with grey hair sticking out of the sides and could be heard on state TV saying "good day" to someone in the court.

Mladic's arrest removed the most important barrier to the Western-leaning Serbian government's efforts to join the European Union and to rehabilitate the country's image as a pariah state which sheltered the men responsible for the worst atrocities of the Balkan wars of the 1990s.

Mladic had two pistols when he was arrested but offered no resistance and appeared shrunken and pale, Serbian officials and media said. Serbia raised its national security level and banned all gatherings after nationalist groups pledged to pour into the streets in protest.

"We have ended a difficult period of our history and removed the stain from the face of Serbia and the members of our nation wherever they live," President Boris Tadic said in a triumphant press conference announcing the arrest.

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A Serbian official close to Mr Tadic said the president had personally overseen the arrest operation and compared it to US President Barack Obama's involvement in the hunt for al Qaida mastermind Osama bin Laden.

Mr Obama hailed the arrest and said Mladic must now answer to his victims in court. "May the families of Mladic's victims find some solace in today's arrest, and may this deepen the ties among the people of the region," he said.

Mr Tadic said Serbia had begun the process of extraditing the former general to the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands.


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