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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 April, 2004, 12:43 GMT 13:43 UK
Q&A: The hunt for Karadzic
The latest Nato attempt to capture the Bosnian Serbs' wartime leader, Radovan Karadzic, has failed. A Serb Orthodox priest and his son suffered severe blast injuries during the raid. But why is it so difficult to apprehend Mr Karadzic, and why does it matter so much to Nato? The BBC's South-east Europe analyst, Gabriel Partos, answers key questions.

Radovan Karadzic
Karadzic has been on the run since the end of the war
Why is Nato so persistent in trying to capture Mr Karadzic?

Mr Karadzic is the most important indicted war crimes suspect from the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia who's still at liberty.

He was the leader of the hardline Bosnian Serbs during the war of 1992-95 - the bloodiest conflagration in Europe since World War II.

Mr Karadzic's name became synonymous with the policy of ethnic cleansing.

He, and his military commander, General Ratko Mladic, were the first individuals to be indicted for genocide.

Many people in Bosnia and elsewhere believe that there can be no inter-ethnic reconciliation and Bosnia cannot be rebuilt as a functioning state until Mr Karadzic and General Mladic stand trial before the war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

But Nato wasn't always so eager to arrest him, was it?

For more than a year after the Dayton peace accords of December 1995 which sanctioned the deployment of the Nato-led peacekeepers - now known as Sfor - Mr Karadzic moved around freely inside the Bosnian Serb republic.

Nato said the arrest of war crimes suspects wasn't one of its core tasks.

But the key problem was that with a then still sizeable Bosnian Serb army and police force, any move to arrest Mr Karadzic could have provoked a potentially serious confrontation.

It was only a couple of years after Dayton that Mr Karadzic disappeared from sight. And the first publicised attempt to capture him was in 2002.

Isn't all this getting rather embarrassing for Nato?

It may be somewhat embarrassing - but much less so than not trying to arrest Mr Karadzic.

During the years before 2002, Nato came in for severe criticism in the international media for pursuing a softly-softly approach towards Mr Karadzic.

Will the injuries suffered by Father Jeremia Starovlah and his son in the latest raids raise tension further?

The fact that the raid caused such serious injuries has angered Bosnian Serbs - particularly Father Jeremia's parishioners in Pale.

It will contribute to the prolongation of hostility towards Nato among many Bosnian Serbs.

But Bosnia has been largely pacified.

A few years ago an incident such as this might have led to serious rioting. Now that prospect looks very unlikely.

And with the benefit of hindsight, it provides justification for Nato's earlier, cautious approach for dealing with Mr Karadzic.

In the period after Dayton, he was surrounded by scores of security personnel: attempts to capture him could have led to a bloodbath, with potentially many civilian casualties.

Now he is believed to have only a handful of bodyguards.

How is Mr Karadzic able to stay one step ahead of his pursuers?

The former Bosnian Serb leader has had years to build up a support system and a network of hiding places.

He is believed to be on the move much of the time.

That means that even when credible information is received that he is in a certain place, by the time his pursuers arrive, he's already moved on.

In general, Mr Karadzic is believed to be criss-crossing the porous border between Bosnia's Serb republic, and Serbia and Montenegro - where he was born.

Orthodox Serb clergy are part of his support network: indeed, Father Jeremia Starovlah was quoted last month as saying that it was the duty of every priest to help Mr Karadzic - who's still regarded by many Serbs as a national hero.

How keen is Nato to arrest Mr Karadzic before the European Union takes over the Bosnia peacekeeping operation?

The EU is due to replace Nato, probably at the beginning of next year, in charge of the Sfor peacekeepers.

Nato would almost certainly like to complete its mission to Bosnia before then with a spectacular success.

Mr Karadzic's capture would crown Nato's long-term achievement in separating the warring sides, establishing security and disarming the one-time combatants.

There's an element of prestige here - to capture Mr Karadzic while Nato is still in charge.

But even when the EU takes over, it will continue to rely on Nato for logistics and intelligence, and Nato would be highly likely to be involved in any moves to arrest Mr Karadzic.

Karadzic search ends in failure
14 Mar 04  |  Europe
Profile: Radovan Karadzic
20 Feb 04  |  Europe

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