Balkans: January 19, 2000


: As reported in StrategyPage on January 15, Serb paramilitary leader Arkan (Zeljko Raznatovic) was murdered in front of the International Hotel. Four days later, the whos and whys remain murky. Arkan was shot in his left eye and died in a Belgrade hospital, along with two of his bodyguards. There are at least five versions of the attack. One says a lone assassin struck with a 9 mm pistol. Another says there was only one assassin but he used a machine pistol. Another says two masked men were involved. Another says there were several attackers but one of them was injured and fled from the hotel in a car. Another report says Arkan spoke to his killers (plural) before he was shot -- one of the assassins came to his table at a restaurant in the hotel and shot him at close range with a 9 mm pistol. An early news report said Belgrade police found 38 spent shell cases on the scene (which if true suggests an automatic weapon). In late press releases, Serb authorities said an autopsy showed Arkan took three bullets in the head.

Arkan was married three times, with a total of 9 children. Arkan's third wife, Svetlana "Ceca" Raznatovic, is a well-known Serb folksinger.

As for "Who" did committed the crime, speculation is rampant. Serb democrats implicate Milosevic, suggesting Arkan was about to turn himself in to UN war crimes investigators and finger Milosevic. The evidence for this? As of now, none. Another theory is he was killed by a disgruntled member of his old Tiger militia (Serbian Volunteer Guard). No why provided. One Serbian government source was quoted as saying it was "Montenegrin mafia."

One of the more compelling assessments (from the Serb independent daily, Blic) alleges that the assassination was "carefully planned." Why? "Arkan could have been killed at a close range only by a professional, backed by a well-organized and extremely qualified organization." Blic later identified one of the "accomplices" (more than one person) involved in the shoot out as being a man named Dusan Gavric. As for other notable quotes, the Bosnian Muslim daily Oslobodjenje said "Arkan died as he a wild dog."

On January 16, Agence France-Presse ran one of the more interesting and thorough wire service reports, a long story pointing out that Arkan's murder is only one of many big time slayings in the Belgrade political overworld and criminal underworld. From time to time StrategyPage has emphasized the extent of crime and corruption throughout the Balkans. The AFP story read like a Hollywood Mafia movie script treatment or a character list from an unpublished Graham Greene novel. Here are two of the long list of unsolved slayings AFP listed:

Radovan Stojicic, also known as "Badza" (Hulk). Killed in 1997 while eating in a Belgrade restaurant. Stojicic was head of the Serbia's federal police, deputy interior minister, and a friend of Slobodan Milosevic. (Friendship seems to only go so far.)
Zoran Todorovic, also known as "Kundak" (Rifle Butt). He was a top official in Mira Markovic's Yugoslav Left party. (Markovic is Milosevic's wife.) Shot and killed in 1997 outside his office.
Stay tuned.


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