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Thursday, 28 February, 2002, 13:03 GMT
Nato searches Karadzic 'hide-out'
Radovan Karadzic
Foca is thought to be one of Radovan Karadzic's hide-outs
A massive Nato operation is under way near the southern Bosnian town of Foca, widely believed to be the hiding place of the former Bosnian Serb President and war crimes suspect, Radovan Karadzic.

A large contingent of soldiers from Bosnia's Stabilisation Force (S-For) has cut off all routes leading to the village of Celebici.

Map of Bosnia, Foca and Celebici
But Nato now says the operation did not find Mr Karadzic.

During the operation, people were reportedly not allowed to leave their houses, as several helicopters landed in the village.

An S-For spokesman confirmed the force was conducting an operation but has not confirmed its exact location or purpose.

But Bosnian Serb media have reported that hundreds of soldiers as well as armoured vehicles and helicopters have been mobilised.

Two explosions were also reported to have been heard in the area.

The RTRS TV station says troops have forced their ways into schools, hospitals, churches and other public buildings.

Water, electricity and communications are reported to have been cut off.

Border crossing

Mr Karadzic is widely believed to have used the Foca region as one of his bases in his six years on the run from the Hague tribunal.

Radovan Karadzic:
  • Former President of the Bosnian Serb Republic
  • Accused by The Hague tribunal of genocide, crimes against humanity and violations of the acts of war
  • Before entering politics he was a psychiatrist and poet

    See also:
      The charges

  • He is originally from Montenegro and is reported to have frequently crossed the border to Montenegro, which lies near Foca.

    The BBC's Paul Anderson says the mountainous and inhospitable region makes the Nato operation fraught with danger.

    Mr Karadzic is also reported to have a loyal following of bodyguards and is said to be ready to kill himself rather than be taken into custody.

    He is also believed to have sought shelter in Orthodox monasteries.

    Mr Karadzic and his military commander General Ratko Mladic have been on the run from the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia at The Hague, where they have been indicted on several charges including genocide.

    They are accused of involvement in the massacre at Srebrenica in which thousands of Bosnian Muslim men were killed.

    Recent reports say that General Mladic has been in the Yugoslav capital Belgrade.

    The Bosnian Serb authorities have been under pressure from the war crimes tribunal to hand over the 20 indicted war criminals who are still at large in the autonomous region.

    So far, Bosnian Serb police have not detained any war crimes suspects.

    The BBC's Andrew Burroughs
    "Nato led peace keeping forces are reported to be closing in on him"
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