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Serbia, Bosnia carry out rare joint swoop on war crimes suspects

An unprecedented joint investigation by former foes Serbia and Bosnia culminated on Friday in the arrests of 15 people suspected of kidnapping and murdering nearly two dozen Serbs in an attack during the 1992-1995 Bosnian War, officials said.



Belgrade: An unprecedented joint investigation by former foes Serbia and Bosnia culminated on Friday in the arrests of 15 people suspected of kidnapping and murdering nearly two dozen Serbs in an attack during the 1992-1995 Bosnian War, officials said.

The arrests over the 1993 attack on a train transporting Serbs along the border with Bosnia took place in coordinated raids in both jurisdictions.

"Five people have been arrested in Serbia on suspicion of committing a war crime in the village of Strpci," Serbia`s war crimes prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic told a news agency.

In a separate statement, Bosnia`s war crimes prosecutor said 10 people had been arrested there in connection with the same case.

He said the suspects included "high-ranking military officials from the Bosnian Serb army of the time as well as perpetrators involved in the brutal torture and execution of the victims."

On February 27, 1993, a train travelling between Serbia and Montenegro was stopped by a Serbian paramilitary group as it passed through the Bosnian village of Strpci, located just across the border.

At the time, Serbia and Montenegro were still part of federal Yugoslavia.

The gunmen forced off 20 of the Serbian passengers, most of whom were Muslim.

The hostages were taken to the eastern Bosnian town of Visegrad, where they were tortured, killed and their bodies dumped in the Drina river, the natural border between Bosnia and Serbia.

To date only one person has been convicted over the killings. Nebojsa Ranisavljevic was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2004. 

Vukcevic said Friday`s arrests followed a year-long probe by a joint team of investigators and prosecutors from Belgrade and Sarajevo.

He said a new police team had been appointed in Serbia after the previous team attempted to stall the case.

"We hope that this will bring closure to the Strpci case and give justice to the victims` families, who for 20 years have been looking for the remains of their loved ones and seeking justice," Vukcevic said.

The Strpci attack was blamed on a group headed by Milan Lukic, a notorious Serbian war criminal, who was sentenced to life in prison in 2009 by the UN tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) for war crimes during the inter-ethnic Bosnian war.

Among those arrested Friday in Serbia was his brother, Gojko Lukic, authorities said.

Vukcevic said the detainees in Bosnia included a former Bosnian Serb colonel closely linked at the time to Bosnian Serb army chief Ratko Mladic, who is currently on trial for war crimes and genocide at the ICTY.

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