Serbia has confirmed the arrest of Ratko Mladic, wanted by United Nations prosecutors for war crimes committed during the Bosnian civil war.
Mladic, a former Bosnian Serb general, had been in hiding for a decade. After the arrest of Radovan Karadzic in 2008, he was the most prominent Bosnian war crimes suspect still at large.
Serbian President Boris Tadic confirmed Mladic’s arrest at a news conference today, and said that work had already begun to extradite him to the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague.
"On behalf of the Republic of Serbia I can announce the arrest of Ratko Mladic. Extradition process is underway," Tadic said.
Mladic is accused of orchestrating the slaughter of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica in July 1995 — the worst European atrocity since World War II. He is also accused of war crimes relating to the deaths of thousands of civilians during the four-year-long Siege of Sarajevo.
Serbian media have reported that Mladic was arrested early this morning in a village close to the northern Serbian town of Zrenjanin. Reuters reports that he was captured after an anonymous tip off, and that he had been using the assumed name of “Milorad Komadic.”
NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in a statement that the arrest finally offered "a chance for justice to be done."
The United States congratulated the Serbian government and said it looked forward to Mladic being transfered to stand trial in The Hague, Agence France-Presse reports.
"The United States is delighted to hear the announcement of the Serbian government that they have captured Ratko Mladic," Ben Rhodes, a deputy U.S. national security advisor, told reporters at the G8 summit.
In 1995, Mladic was indicted by the U.N. war crimes tribunal on charges of genocide for the killings at Srebrenica, and for crimes against humanity and other charges.
Mladic disappeared from public view in 2001 after the arrest of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. In 2006, the chief U.N. prosecutor demanded that Serbia step up the hunt for Mladic and said that failure to arrest him would hurt Serbia’s chances of joining the European Union.
Two years ago, video footage emerged of Mladic enjoying himself at a ski resort, and attending a baby's christening, the Telegraph reports.
In October, Serbia began intensifying the hunt for Mladic and offered a $13.8 million reward for information leading to his capture.
U.N. war crimes chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz earlier today scolded Serbia for failing to do enough to find Mladic.
"The capture is the biggest obligation of Serbia," he said in a report sent to the U.N. Security Council. "Until now efforts by Serbia to detain fugitives have not been sufficient."
But Tadic has rejected criticism that Serbia only took action because of international pressure.
"It is crystal clear that we did not calculate when we had to arrest Ratko Mladic," he said Thursday at the news conference to announce Mladic's arrest.
"We have been co-operating with the Hague Tribunal fully from the beginning of the mandate of this government."