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Monday, 20 March, 2000, 22:40 GMT
Former paramilitary killed in Belgrade
Lainovic was shot dead outside Belgrade's Hotel Serbia
A former Serbian paramilitary leader has been shot dead outside a Belgrade hotel, the latest in a series of gangland-style assassinations.

Branislav Lainovic - known as "Dugi" or The Long One - was killed by automatic gunfire at the exit of the Hotel Serbia.

The incident is the latest in a series of high-profile killings, most of which remain unsolved.

Life in Serbia has become extremely risky

Zorin Djindjic, Democratic Party leader
In January, Serbia's notorious warlord Zeljko Raznjatovic, also known as Arkan, was killed in a Belgrade hotel.

Weeks later, Yugoslav Defence Minister Pavle Bulatovic was also gunned down in a restaurant.

Serbia's Beta news agency on Monday reported that witnesses heard three shots and then saw a young man running away.

Lainovic's shooting brought condemnation from several opposition figures.

Zoran Djindjic, leader of the Democratic Party, said the killing was "the latest proof that life in Serbia has become extremely risky".

Arkan critic

Lainovic was believed to control the crime network in the northern city of Novi Sad, about 60 km (40 miles) north of Belgrade.

Lainovic was a former commander of the paramilitary group Serb Guard
He was also a former commander of the Serb Guard, a paramilitary group organised by opposition Serbian Renewal Movement which fought on the side of the Serbs in Croatia at the start of the war there in 1991.

Lainovic was himself called in for questioning by police earlier this month in connection with Arkan's murder.

In a recent newspaper interview, he said he saluted anyone who went to war for Serbia but he was aware of Arkan's responsibility for many deaths.

"I know very well how much pain he caused to others," he told the newspaper Blic.

"I cannot understand written praise of someone who violated Orthodox church canons, but also human and moral canons," he added.

Lainovic had also made a number of political statements in recent weeks. Only days ago he called on all Serbian patriots to start a fight against the government as well as against the opposition, which he said had helped the regime stay in power.

Lainovic owned several hotels in Europe, including one in Marbella and one in Amsterdam, along with a Belgrade nightclub, a restaurant and a chain of kiosks.

He was also shot in a previous assassination attempt in 1992 but survived after spending more than a month in a Novi Sad hospital.

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08 Feb 00 | Europe
Belgrade in terror crackdown
08 Feb 00 | Europe
Riddle of a murdered minister
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