|low graphics version | feedback | help|
|You are in: World: Europe|
Monday, 17 January, 2000, 17:06 GMT
Arkan murder mystery
By BBC News Online's Joe Havely
Whoever pulled the trigger on Arkan, most people in Belgrade agree on one thing: he died as he lived - violently and amid a web of intrigue.
Belgrade police say the killing in the lobby of one of the city's most prestigious hotels bore all the hallmarks of a gangland hit. Other than that, they say, there is little evidence of a motive or of who carried out the attack.
But even a brief look at Arkan's life - from bank robber and arms dealer to leadership of one of Serbia's most notorious paramilitary groups - reveals a long list of those who could have wanted him dead.
Consequently conspiracy theories about who was behind the killing are rife.
The list of those mentioned in conection with Arkan's death range from Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to rival gangsters, arms dealers, drug smugglers and even Serbian soccer chiefs, angered that Arkan had apparently used his position at the head of Obilic football club to engage in match fixing.
There is also speculation that Bosnian Muslims, Croats or members of the Kosovo Liberation Army had put a price on his head, or that associates of his superstar "turbo-folk" singing wife, Ceca, may have been involved.
Although he travelled in bullet-proof vehicles accompanied by heavily armed bodyguards, Arkan himself was reported to have been feeling increasingly insecure in recent days, confiding in a friend: "What can I do? I'm trying to stay alive."
Slavoljub Kacarevic, editor of on independent Serbian newspaper Glas Javnosti, adds: ''The main question was not whether Arkan would be killed, but when.''
Another theory on Arkan's death centres on the possibility that he ran into trouble in gangland dealings with President Milosevic's playboy son, Marko, who is himself alleged to have strong underworld connections.
Internationally isolated and blockaded in recent years by sanctions, analysts say that Serbia has become an increasingly criminalised society with growing connections between government and gangland operations.
There are also suggestions that Arkan may have clashed with the Albanian mafia, with whom he once had close ties overseeing a drug smuggling ring through Serbia and Turkey into western Europe.
But by far the most popular theory is that Arkan was killed because he knew too much, and possibly because he was about to hand over evidence to international prosecutors implicating President Milosevic in war crimes.
There is speculation that he may have been trying to negotiate his own immunity in return for testifying against senior Serbian leaders.
Arkan's militia force - the Tigers - was reportedly organised in the early 1990s with the backing of the Yugoslav secret police as a means of enabling President Milosevic to disassociate himself from the killings and ethnic cleansing that took place in the Bosnian and Croatian conflicts.
However, members of President Milosevic's Socialist Party have said accusations of state involvement in Arkan's murder are unfounded.
Speaking to independent radio station B-92, Socialist Party committee member Radmilo Bogdanovic said any speculation behind the killing should await "a detailed police and judicial investigation".
Serbian opposition leader Vuk Draskovic, who says he was himself a target of an assassination attempt last October, has labelled Arkan's killing an act of state terrorism.
He said the attack was designed to spread a climate of fear amongst opponents of the regime and strengthen Mr Milosevic's grip on power.
Other opposition figures have said that the professionalism of the killing points to it being a highly organised affair, planned and executed by people who knew what they were doing.
Witnesses to the killing are reported to have seen the assailants at the normally well-guarded hotel sometime before Arkan's entourage arrived.
However, Vladan Batic, leader of the Alliance for Change, said he expects Arkan's death to join a growing list of unsolved murders.
"Violent death has become an everyday thing and such a murder would be solved quickly only if the police and judiciary functioned normally," he told reporters.
"Someone is pulling the strings and deciding every morning who will be next."
The government meanwhile has remained conspicuously tight-lipped on Arkan's death.
During the wars in Croatia and Bosnia, state media played a key role in portraying Arkan as a hero of the Serb nation.
But whilst coverage of his death has dominated the front pages of non-government press, government-controlled media have relegated it to "other news", marginalising the attack as another of Belgrade's unexplained gangland killings.
Who pulled the trigger? Europe Contents
Links to other Europe stories are at the foot of the page.
Links to more Europe stories
|^^ Back to top
News Front Page | World | UK | UK Politics | Business | Sci/Tech | Health | Education | Entertainment | Talking Point | In Depth | AudioVideo
To BBC Sport>> | To BBC Weather>>
© MMIII | News Sources | Privacy