Ratko Mladic: Genocide suspect, goat herd, ‘God’
BELGRADE, Serbia – Gen. Ratko Mladic’s ruthlessness was legendary: “Burn their brains!” he once bellowed as his men pounded Sarajevo with artillery fire.
So was his arrogance: He nicknamed himself “God,” and kept goats which he was said to have named after Western leaders he despised.
Mladic, the wartime Bosnian Serb military chief wanted for genocide for Europe’s worst massacre of civilians since World War II, was the U.N. war crimes tribunal’s No. 1 co-fugitive together with his partner in crime, Radovan Karadzic.
Mladic, 69, had eluded capture since he was indicted by the tribunal in 1995. But his days as a fugitive were numbered after Serbian security forces captured Karadzic on July 21, 2008, in Belgrade. On Thursday, Serbia’s president announced that Mladic is in custody.
Known for personally leading his troops in the 1995 Serb onslaught against the U.N.-protected enclave of Srebrenica — where thousands of Muslim men and boys were killed — Mladic was indicted for genocide against the Bosnian town’s population.
Just hours before the massacre, Mladic handed out candy to Muslim children rounded up at the town’s square and assured them that all would be fine — even patting one child on the head. That sinister image is forever imprinted in the minds of Srebrenica survivors.
Born March 12, 1942, in the southeastern Bosnian village of Bozinovci, Mladic graduated from Belgrade’s prestigious military academy and joined the Yugoslav Communists in 1965. Embarking on an army career when Yugoslavia was a six-state federation, Mladic rose steadily through the military ranks, making general before the country’s breakup in 1991.
At the start of the Balkan bloodbath, he was in Croatia leading Yugoslav troops in Knin and was believed to have played a crucial role in the army bombardment of the coastal city of Zadar. A year later, he assumed command of the Yugoslav Army’s 2nd Military District, which effectively became the Bosnian Serb army.
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