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On the trail of Ratko Mladic

'It's easy to hide successfully when nobody wants to find you,' an associate of Radovan Karadzic explained with a wry smile.

Former Bosnian Serb leader Karadzic was arrested by the Serbian authorities in July 2008 and yet his fellow fugitive, former Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic, has continued to evade capture. It was in 1995 that an international court in The Hague indicted Mladic for war crimes in the siege of Sarajevo and for genocide in the Srebrenica massacre.

Andrew Testa joined New York Times reporters Dan Bilefsky and Doreen Carvajal on the hunt for Mladic. They interviewed more than two dozen sources, including government investigators, two loyalists who aided Mladic and Karadzic, and five family friends, including the family priest. In the early years, they found, Mladic had not felt the need to lie low. 'Protected by Serbia's nationalist president, Slobodan Milosevic, he visited for several years the grave of his daughter, Ana, who committed suicide with his favorite pistol in 1994. He enjoyed a Chinese-Yugoslav soccer match surrounded by bodyguards at a Belgrade stadium in 2000. His framed photograph hung in bars like the Crazy House in New Belgrade. He prayed at his brother's funeral in 2001 in a jogging suit and sunglasses with a young woman on his arm, according to the family priest, Vojislav Carkic, who said local men blocked off the cemetery road.

One protector - a Serbian military officer who was later arrested - recalled that Mr. Mladic lived fairly openly in a house guarded by a private 52-man security detail with four cars.'

In recent years, as European pressure for an arrest intensified, Mladic has had to get used to diminished circumstances, and by 2010 sources indicated that he was being hidden by no more than a handful of loyalists.

'An investigation into Mr. Mladic's whereabouts, how he has eluded capture, and Europe's shifting response to him paints a picture of a man of obstinate will and bravado, slowly and haltingly being drawn into a shrinking world of shadows.

But as Europe has struggled with the dilemma, time seems to have played its hand. The vividness of the wartime horrors has receded outside the Balkans. Mr. Mladic has gotten older, and, according to many people, sicker and more isolated, probably moving from nondescript apartment to nondescript apartment in New Belgrade, a sprawling extension of Belgrade across the Sava River.'

Click here for a full text by Dan Bilefsky and Doreen Carvajal of The New York Times.
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