REPORTING FROM MADRID -- A fugitive implicated in the 2003 assassination of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic has been arrested along with two other men in Spain, police said Friday.
The three men were members of a Serbian paramilitary group known as Arkan's Tigers, Spanish police said in a statement. They were apprehended a day earlier at a restaurant in the eastern city of Valencia.
One of the men, Vladimir Milisavljevic, had been sentenced in absentia by a Serbian court to 75 years in prison for involvement in Djindjic's killing, as well as for other crimes. Milisavljevic has been on the run for nine years, a Spanish police spokesman said by telephone on condition of anonymity in line with department rules.
The police statement identified another suspect as Luka Bojovic, wanted on suspicion of being linked to about 20 murders in Serbia, the Netherlands and Spain. However, it was unclear whether he too is a suspect in Djindjic's murder. A third man, Sinisa Petric, was arrested with them, the spokesman said.
Djindjic was shot March 12, 2003, by a sniper while on his way into a government building in the Serbian capital of Belgrade. Four years later, a special court there found 12 men guilty of involvement in the killing, including Milisavljevic. Thousands of suspects have been held at various times in the killing; it remains unclear exactly what role the suspects arrested in Spain are accused of playing.
Prosecutors believe the Serbian prime minister was targeted because of his pro-Western reforms, including a crackdown on organized crime and his cooperation with the International War Crimes Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, in The Hague.
Arkan's Tigers, a widely feared paramilitary group, is believed to have been composed partly of former members of Serbian paramilitary groups responsible for some of the worst atrocities of the Balkan wars in the 1990s. They were close to the late former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, who died in 2006 while on trial for war crimes in The Hague.
Friday's word of arrests in Spain came just two days after Serbian officials said they thwarted an attempted jail break by two inmates, including one serving time in connection with Djindjic's murder. Five prison guards were being held on suspicion of aiding the attempt.
-- Lauren Frayer
Photo: Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic gestures at a news conference in Washington in February 2001. Djindjic was assassinated in March 2003 by a sniper outside government headquarters in the Serbian capital, Belgrade. Credit: Michael Temchine / Associated Press