Sunday 17 December 2017

He handed out sweets to the children before ordering troops to kill them all

Dusan Stojanovic in Belgrade

GENERAL Ratko Mladic's ruthlessness was legendary: "Burn their brains!" he once bellowed as his men pounded Sarajevo with artillery fire.

So was his arrogance. He nicknamed himself 'God' and kept goats which he was said to have named after Western leaders he despised.

Mladic, the wartime Bosnian Serb military chief wanted for genocide for Europe's worst massacre of civilians since World War Two, was the UN war crimes tribunal's No 1 co-fugitive, along with his partner in crime, Radovan Karadzic.

Mladic (69) had eluded capture since he was indicted by the tribunal in 1995.

But his days as a fugitive were numbered after Serbian security forces captured Karadzic on July 21, 2008, in Belgrade. Yesterday, Serbia's president announced that Mladic was in custody.

Known for personally leading his troops in the 1995 Serb onslaught against the UN-protected enclave of Srebrenica -- where thousands of Muslim men and boys were killed -- Mladic was indicted for genocide against the Bosnian town's population.

Just before the massacre, Mladic handed out sweets to Muslim children rounded up at the town's square and assured them that all would be fine -- even patting one child on the head.

Moments later, he gave the signal for his men to open fire and murder them all. Bulldozers were then brought in to bury them in mass graves.

Born on March 12, 1942, in the south-eastern Bosnian village of Bozinovci, Mladic graduated from Belgrade's prestigious military academy and joined the Yugoslav Communists in 1965.


Embarking on an army career when Yugoslavia was a six-state federation, Mladic rose steadily through the ranks, making general before the country's break-up in 1991. At the start of the Balkan war, he was in Croatia leading Yugoslav troops and was believed to have played a crucial role in the army bombardment of the coastal city of Zadar. A year later, he assumed command of the Yugoslav Army's 2nd Military District, which effectively became the Bosnian Serb army.

Appointed in 1992 by Karadzic, Mladic led the Bosnian Serb army until the Dayton accords brought peace to Bosnia in 1995.

Among his men, Mladic commanded fierce devotion and adoration bordering on the pathological.

As military leaderships go, his was omnipresent, from front-line trenches to chess games on high-altitude outlooks. He was known for ordering press-ups as a prelude to battle, and he enjoyed reviewing pompous military parades and rubbing shoulders with UN commanders in Bosnia.

Obsessed with his nation's history, Mladic saw Bosnia's war -- which killed more than 100,000 people and displaced another 1.8 million -- as a chance for revenge against 500 years of Turkish-Ottoman occupation of Serbia. He viewed Bosnian Muslims as Turks and called them that as an insult.

With Karadzic, Mladic shares a tribunal indictment for genocide linked to the Srebrenica massacre, as well as numerous counts of crimes against humanity. The US government offered $5m for information leading to Mladic's capture.

Evading arrest, Mladic began his fugitive years in a military compound in eastern Bosnia built for former Yugoslav communist leader Josip Broz Tito and designed to withstand a nuclear attack.


With his wife, Bosa, Mladic settled down to imposed domesticity, passing the time caring for bees and goats.

When in the late 1990s his trail grew too hot in Bosnia, Mladic moved with his family into a posh suburban villa in the Yugoslav capital, Belgrade.

In Belgrade, he was seen attending his son's wedding. He showed up at football games, dined in plush restaurants and frequented elite cafes, refusing to give interviews and smiling quizzically when he happened to be photographed.

When Milosevic was ousted from power in October 2000, and Yugoslavia's new pro-democracy authorities signalled they might hand Mladic over to the tribunal, tabloids had him leaving Belgrade for Bosnia.

But true to his style, Mladic countered those rumours and others that had him terminally ill in Belgrade. Before going underground in 2002, he was repeatedly seen in public -- sometimes with his guards, sometimes without them.

Irish Independent

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