Serb paramilitary known as "Commander Death" Arrested in Argentina

Argentinian authorities have arrested a Serb suspected by human rights campaigners of committing atrocities during the 1999 Kosovo war, the Serbian Interior Ministry said Wednesday.

The ministry said Buenos Aires has asked Belgrade for documents on the man, identified as Nebojsa Minic, who was arrested Monday in the western Argentinian city of Mendoza after a tip from the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch.

Minic, 40, formerly a member of a notorious Serb paramilitary group in Kosovo, had been followed by Argentinian police for three months after illegally entering the country from Chile.

Argentina also asked whether Belgrade has requested an Interpol warrant for Minic, which would be grounds for his extradition from Argentina.

Serbian authorities have not announced publicly that they are seeking Minic, although some war crimes cases are being tried by Serbian courts. Minic is not wanted by the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands.

According to the Serbian ministry, Minic would remain in the custody of the Mendoza police, on charges of illegal entry and forged papers, pending a response from Belgrade.

Meanwhile, Minic was identified by a Belgrade-based group, the Humanitarian Law Fund, as a suspect in scores of murders committed by Serb paramilitaries in Kosovo.

Spokeswoman Natasa Kandic urged the Serb authorities to demand Minic's extradition so he could be tried before Belgrade courts for war crimes committed in Kosovo.

The government did not immediately respond.

According to Kandic, whose Humanitarian Law Fund has assembled data on atrocities during the 1998-99 war in the southern province, Minic was known as "Commander Death" in the western Kosovo town of Pec.

As a police reservist, he had joined the Serb paramilitary troops in Pec and was implicated in the murder of a six-member ethnic Albanian family, Kandic said.

"Minic lived in Pec and wreaked death and destruction in the area," Kandic said. "He must be tried for war crimes."

"We have very reliable documents, testimonies of survivors of massacres, who have identified him," she added.

Kandic said that Human Rights Watch, which had tipped Buenos Aires on Mandic, had similar documents.

It was not clear when Minic fled from Serbia-Montenegro, Yugoslavia's successor state.

Serb forces under former President Slobodan Milosevic cracked down on Kosovo's majority ethnic Albanians in 1998-99 to suppress a separatist rebellion.

Thousands of people, mostly ethnic Albanians, were killed in the crackdown. The brutality of the Serb troops prompted NATO to bomb Serbia for 78 days in 1999 to force Milosevic to pull out his troops from Kosovo and relinquish control to the United Nations and NATO.

Kosovo has since been run by the United Nations and NATO peacekeeepers although it remains officially part of Serbia-Montenegro.

[Source: AP, Belgrade, Serbia-Montenegro by Albanian.com, 03Jun05]

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