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Friday, 16 June, 2000, 11:21 GMT 12:21 UK
Serbia: The politics of bloodshed
Vuk Draskovic: Escaped the attack
Montenegro police are investigating an attempt to assassinate the prominent Serb opposition leader, Vuk Draskovic. The BBC's south-east Europe analyst Gabriel Partos examines the implications.

This is the second time in nine months that Mr Draskovic, leader of the conservative Serbian Renewal Movement, came close to death.

Most of the killings bear the hallmarks of professional hitmen - clinical in their accuracy - using a few shots

In October he suffered minor injuries when a heavy lorry crashed into his motorcade south of Belgrade. Four of his associates and bodyguards travelling in another car were killed.

At the time, Mr Draskovic portrayed the car crash as a deliberate attempt on his life and blamed President Slobodan Milosevic's secret police for engineering it.

His allegations have been lent credence by the fact that neither the truck driver nor the owner have been found by police.

Deadly business

Yet the use of a truck for an attempted assassination - if that was the case - did not fit into the pattern of killings of prominent figures which in Serbia have claimed more than a dozen victims in the past three years.

This time there can be no doubt that the perpetrators were out to kill Mr Draskovic.

Slobodan Milosevic: Wants Montenegro to toe party line
But in some ways this latest attempt was also different from the usual way of going about this deadly business.

Most of the killings bear the hallmarks of professional hitmen - clinical in their accuracy - using a few shots.

By contrast, in Thursday night's attack, Mr Draskovic's flat was sprayed with automatic fire - suggesting more of a hit-or-miss operation. As it happens, Mr Draskovic came close to death when one of the bullets grazed his head.

It now looks increasingly likely that Mr Draskovic is being treated as a main target by those who dislike his policies.

Last month his bodyguards were disarmed by police when they went to Belgrade airport to escort him home after his trip to Russia.

Mr Draskovic can certainly expect little help from the police in Serbia who owe their loyalty to the Milosevic administration.

Belgrade warning

Mr Draskovic may have felt safer in Montenegro where the police are behind the pro-Western administration of President Milo Djukanovic who has established close links with Serbian opposition figures, including Mr Draskovic.

However, the spate of killings that has claimed so many prominent victims in Serbia has recently been extended to Montenegro.

Last week President Djukanovic's security adviser, Goran Zugic, was shot dead.

He was not the first Montenegrin victim - some of those killed in Serbia are from Montenegro - but it was the first time in recent years that a high-profile figure was murdered in that republic.

That killing - coming as it did on the eve of Montenegrin municipal elections - was interpreted in some quarters as a warning from Belgrade that Montenegro should not go too far down the road towards independence.

But whatever the motives behind these two recent attacks in Montenegro, they show that Serbia's reluctant partner in the Yugoslav federation is no longer immune to the combination of gangland killings and political assassinations that have claimed so many victims in Serbia itself.

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See also:

16 Jun 00 | Europe
Serbian opposition leader shot
20 May 00 | Europe
Analysis: Tense times in Serbia
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