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Serbia Arrests 8 Accused Of Direct Roles In 1995 Srebrenica Massacre

This photo taken March 7 shows a now-abandoned warehouse where more than 1,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were killed in July 1995 on the outskirts of Srebrenica.
Sulejman Omerbasic

Police have arrested eight men suspected of carrying out the 1995 mass killing of more than 1,000 Bosnian Muslim boys and men in Srebrenica. War crimes prosecutors ordered what are said to be the first arrests in Serbia of direct participants in Europe's worst atrocity since World War II.

The eight men are accused of killing "over 1,000 civilians of Muslim nationality, whose remains were identified in mass graves at several locations," reports Serbian news agency B92.

"The biggest arrest in the sweep was Nedeljko Milidragovic, the commander dubbed 'Nedjo the Butcher,' who went on to become a successful businessman in Serbia," The Associated Press reports. The news agency says Milidragovic and his force killed men and boys who had been captured and crowded into a warehouse.

More than 7,000 people were summarily executed in the massacre that took place over the course of several days in Srebrenica, where many Bosnian Muslims had gathered to flee the violence that followed the breakup of Yugoslavia. The town had been designated as a U.N. safe haven.

Srebrenica is about 90 miles east-northeast of Sarajevo, close to Bosnia-Herzegovina's border with Serbia.

Serbia's war crimes prosecutor says other suspects are still being sought. The move comes after "an investigation against former members of the Jahorina Training Center within the Special Police Brigade of the Serb Republic (RS) interior ministry, B92 reports.

In May of 2011, the mastermind of the Srebrenica killings, former Bosnian Serb Gen. Ratko Mladic, was arrested and turned over to the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands.

As NPR's Sylvia Poggioli has previously reported back in 2005 on the massacre and its troubled legacy, while "Serbs are slowly accepting the need for cooperation with the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal, many are still unwilling to acknowledge that war crimes were committed in their name."

Munira Subasic, who leads the Mothers of Srebrenica group, tells the AP that the arrests are "good news."

"It was time for Serbia to do something," she says. "This is a message to all criminals who fled and thought they are safe from justice that they can never rest."

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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