Forces and Bosnian War Crimes Suspects
(Click on the above graphic to be taken
to the UN's official ITCY page)
Force and SEAL Team SIX Join the Hunt
Swoop on Serb Butcher, December 1999
Official Home Page
Crimes - Excellent informaton - must see
may seek out Bosnian war-crime suspects - September
Serb war criminal gets 20-year sentence - July 14,
roundup signals tougher stand on Bosnian war criminals
- July 10, 1997
held on ways to capture Bosnian Serb leader - July
will catch Bosnia war criminals? - December 19,
Special Forces Arrest
War Crimes Suspects
By Thomas B. Hunter
(Graphic from ElectronicTelegraph)
On July 10, 1997, a 10-man team from the British 22
Special Air Service (SAS) were deployed to the forested
mountains surrounding the Bosnian Serb capital of Pale.
These soldiers were reportedly inserted by RAF Chinook
helicopters from 47 Squadron operating from forward
The specifics of the arrests were provided by an article
in the UK newspaper The Telegraph: "The operation,
codenamed Tango, involved the detention of Simo Drljaca
and Milan Kovacevic by an SAS team in the area of Prijedor,north-west
Bosnia. The men were identified and tailed covertly
before being challenged by British troops in uniform
carrying indictments issued by the International Criminal
Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. Kovacevic did not
offer resistance and was arrested at Prijedor hospital,
where he is the director.
Drljaca, who was Prijedor's chief of police, was approached
on a road outside the town. He fired his pistol, hitting
a British soldier in the leg. British military sources
said the other SAS soldiers fired in self defence.
Drljaca's body was taken by an American helicopter
to its base at Tuzla,where the wounded British soldier
was treated for what were described as "mild injuries".
Kovacevic was taken to tribunal headquarters in the
Hague. He is expected to be publicly indicted in the
next few days. Both are believed to be suspected of
involvement in some of the worst excesses of ethnic
cleansing in Prijedor, where thousands of Bosnian Muslims
were imprisoned, starved and tortured in 1992."
In light of the first successful operation, a similar
mission was planned five months later. In support of
continued international efforts to bringBosnian war
crimes suspects to justice, Dutch and British special
forces arrested two Bosnian Croats in the central Bosnian
town of Vitez, 30 miles northwest of Sarajevo. Vlatko
Kupreskic, 39, and Anto Furundzija, 28, were apprehended
at their homes in simultaneous operations in the early
morning hours of 18 December 1997. Folowwing their arrests,
the two suspects were transported to The Hague, The
Netherlands to face formal indictment by theUnited Nations
International War Crimes Tribunal.
Although the Tribunal has not made public its specific
charges, the men were allegedly among at least eight
Croats who participated in a series of massacres in
the Bosnian village of Ahmici and eight other settlements
in April 1993. At least 103 people, including 33 women
and children, died in the slaughter. Furundzija was
additionally wanted for questioning about his role as
commander of "The Jokers", one of two notoriously
brutal paramilitary units operating the Lasva Valley.
To effect the apprehension of both individuals, a small
team of commandos from the Dutch 108th Special Forces
Company was inserted by helicopter near the town of
Vitez just days prior to the operation. This team joined
two troops from Great Britain's 22 Special Air Service
(SAS) already operating in Bosnia. Pairs of 108th operators
then set up covert observation posts near the suspects'
homes and conducted surveillance to establish the mens
patterns of movement and behavior. Immediately prior
to the operation to arrest Kupresikic, telephone lines
to his home were severed and the family's nightwatchman
was tied up and gagged. With the exterior secured, a
dynamic entry into the home was conducted minutes later
with the use of an explosive device at the front door,
followed by tear gas and stun grenades. These diversionary
tools were not entirely effective, however, and Kupreskic
managedto grab an automatic weapon and engage the commandos.
In the brief firefightthat followed, Kupreskic was wounded
in the arm, shoulder, and leg. Noneof the assault team
was seriously injured.
The arrest of Furundzija, in a different section of
Vitez, was nearlyaborted when surveillance observed
him driving past his house shortly after midnight. Fears
that the mission had been somehow compromised were quickly
assauged when he circled back to his house and leisurely
exited his vehicle.Upon entering his home he was challenged
by the soldiers and arrested, offering no resistance.
It was determined after questioning that Furundzija
was intoxicatedand had simply missed the driveway to
his house and had not, in fact, seenany of the commandos.
The selection of 108th SF personnel as the assault
team was believedto have been prompted by an offer from
the Dutch government, in part toremedy criticism at
home that resulted from the failure of Dutch peacekeepersto
prevent the murder of thousands of Muslims in the Bosnian
enclave ofSrebrenica in July 1995.
There was some concern voiced by officials over the
thrat of reprisalsby Bosnian Serbs resentful of NATO
attempts to arrest citizens. Following Operation Tango,
and unidentified individual lobbed four grenades into
aBritish military outpost, causing minor damage but
no casualties. It was later speculated that the incident
had been perpetrated by a member of the Bosnian Serb
special police force serving as a bodyguard unit for
senior officials and VIPs. These units had been largely
banned by NATO, howeverit is known that many members
retained their weapons and equipment.
The only protests stemming from the 18 December Dutch-led
operation came in the form of temporary roadblocks constructed
by local citizens on the roads leading into and out
of the town of Vitez. These were mostly peaceful in
nature and no direct actions were taken against NATO
forces in the area.
In related news, British soliders, including troopers
from 22 SAS, providedprotection for war crimes investigators
searching for evidence in a hard-line Serb nationalist
town in Bosnia on 12 December. The investigators also
receivedsupport from police loyal to President Biljana
Plavsic, the Bosnian Serbleader. They searched three
buildings in Prejedor - a private house, a municipal
building and the headquarters of the hard-line Serb
Democratic Party -for evidence against Milan Kovacevic,
a Serb charged with crimes against humanity. The town
of Prejedor was the scene of some of the worst ethnic
violence during the Bosnian war.
to Special Operations.Com Home Page