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Serb war crime suspects surrender

Martic leaving Belgrade airport bound for the Netherlands  

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- Two Serbs, including a former rebel leader and army general, have arrived at The Hague to face war crimes charges.

Milan Martic, a former Croatian Serb, has been indicted by the International War Crimes Tribunal for his part in the shelling of the Croatian capital Zagreb in May 1995 in which seven civilians died.

Gen. Mile Mrksic commanded a Yugoslav army unit in 1991 which is accused of besieging and relentlessly shelling for months the eastern Croatian city of Vukovar, killing 200 people.

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Both flew into Amsterdam's Schiphol airport on Wednesday and were taken to the tribunal's detention centre outside The Hague. They are expected to appear at tribunal within the week.

Martic, who led rebel Serbs opposed to Croatia's declaration of independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, vowed he would soon return to Belgrade.

He was reported by The Associated Press as saying while waiting to board the plane: "I'm voluntarily travelling to The Hague to find out under whose will we (the Croatian Serbs) were chased out" from Croatia in 1995.

"If there is justice, I'll be back soon."

He has been indicted on four counts of violating the rules of war.

Mrksic, pictured in 1995  

It is alleged that Martic, the "president" of the self-proclaimed "Republic of Serb Krajina" ("RSK") ordered the military forces of the "RSK" to attack the central part of Zagreb on 2 and 3 May 1995, his indictment reads -- breaking the laws of war.

The chief war crimes prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, recently said that the indictment against Martic would be expanded soon to include specific wartime actions by his troops in Croatia, where thousands were killed and tens of thousands chased from their homes between 1991 and 1995.

In the first years of the Croatian Serb rebellion, Martic was close to former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, now on trial at The Hague, but the two fell out over Yugoslavia's perceived abandonment of Croatian Serbs to Croatian forces.

Martic, who had been hiding in Bosnia and Serbia since 1995, is one of six Serb suspects offering to surrender voluntarily to the tribunal rather than face possible arrest and extradition.

Mrksic later commanded Croatian Serb troops under Martic during the war.

Martic has accused Mrksic of betrayal for fleeing Croatia along with his troops, and the two remain bitter enemies.

Mrksic faces the more serious tribunal charge of crimes against humanity. He has been indicted as part of the "Vukovar Three," which includes Miroslav Radic and Veselin Sljivancanin.

They are accused of ordering, or supervising the removal of 200-non Serbs from a Vukovar hospital, transporting them to a farm building in Ovcara where they were beaten before being taken outside the village and shot and buried in a mass grave.

At the time of the incident Mrksic was a colonel, before being promoted to general and then becoming commanding officer of the RSK.

He faces six charges, including two of crimes against humanity.

Twenty-four Serbs are on the U.N. court's list of suspects wanted for alleged war crimes committed during the Balkan wars in the 1990s.

Yugoslavia's current leadership, which extradited Milosevic to The Hague last year, has been under strong Western pressure to hand them over or risk losing millions of dollars in badly needed U.S. aid.




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