Serbian official says police know who killed prime minister

Monday, April 21, 2003

BELGRADE, Serbia-Montenegro -- Twelve people are believed to have carried out last month's assassination of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, including a former deputy paramilitary commander linked to Slobodan Milosevic, Serbia's interior minister said in an interview published Sunday.

Dusan Mihajlovic told the Vecernje Novosti daily that the deputy commander confessed to pulling the trigger in the March 12 sniper attack that killed Djindjic. The accused gunman was a deputy commander of a paramilitary unit loyal to Milosevic, the former Yugoslav president, he said.

"We know who ordered, organized and carried out the assassination. We know who aided it, and how it was done," Mihajlovic said in the interview published Sunday. "There are no more secrets."

However, some of the key suspects remain at large, including a former paramilitary commander, Milorad Lukovic, whose arrest "might take a while," Mihajlovic said.

Police have accused an underworld clan with links to the state security agency of masterminding the killing, which the authorities said was part of a wider plot to overthrow the former prime minister's pro-Western government.

Thousands detained

Thousands of people, including Milosevic's state security chief and several of the former president's key allies, have been detained since the killing.

The former head of Serbian state television and another Milosevic ally, Milorad Vucelic, was detained late Thursday, said a government official who spoke on condition of anonymity. The official did not specify why Vucelic was arrested or whether he would face criminal charges.

Vucelic headed Milosevic's state television during the wars in Bosnia and Croatia. He is believed to have close links to Milosevic's former state security chief, Jovica Stanisic, who was also arrested in connection with Djindjic's death.

Djindjic, 50, played a key role in extraditing Milosevic to the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, in 2001.

On Sunday, several thousand people, including top government officials and his family, attended a memorial service for Djindjic in Belgrade's central church, Saint Sava temple. The service was held 40 days after his death, in the Orthodox Christian tradition.

"It is not important how long a man lives but what he does in his life," Serbian Orthodox Christian Bishop Atanasije Rakita said during the service. "Thank you Zoran, God will honor your deeds."

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