BELGRADE // Serbia yesterday arrested Goran Hadzic, the former Croatian Serb rebel leader accused of mass murder, and the last remaining fugitive wanted by the UN war crimes court in The Hague.
Mr Hadzic, 52, faces 14 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes for the murders of hundreds of people and deportation of tens of thousands of Croats between 1992 and 1993. He is the last of the 161 people indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia who remained at large.
The Serbian president, Boris Tadic, announced Mr Hadzic's arrest as the end of a "difficult" chapter for Serbia in its dealings with The Hague court.
"This morning at 8.24am, Goran Hadzic was arrested. With this Serbia ends the most difficult chapter in its co-operation with the court," Mr Tadic said.
Mr Hadzic's arrest comes less than two months after the capture of the wartime Bosnian Serb commander General Ratko Mladic, the court's most wanted fugitive.
B92 television reported Mr Hadzic was arrested in the mountain region of Fruska Gora, near the northern city of Novi Sad. RTS state television reported he was arrested in the Krusedol Serbian Orthodox monastery.
After General Mladic's capture, Serbia was able to use all its manpower to catch Mr Hadzic, Rasim Ljajic, the minister in charge of co-operation with the UN tribunal, said in an interview last week.
Mr Hadzic, a former warehouse employee at an agricultural plant, rose to prominence as the president of the self-proclaimed Republic of Serbian Krajina (RSK) in Croatia between 1992 and 1993.
Chosen for the post with the backing of the late Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic, Mr Hadzic was seen as a "yes man" who wielded little real power compared with other wartime Serb leaders.
Milosevic died in March 2006 in his cell at The Hague where he was being tried for war crimes and other charges related to the 1990s Balkan wars.
Mr Hadzic is wanted on charges that Croatian Serb troops under his command massacred 250 Croats and other non-Serbs taken from a hospital in Vukovar after the city fell to Serbian troops following an almost three-month siege in November 1991.
The siege of Vukovar and the subsequent massacre is one of the darkest periods in the 1991 to 1995 Croatian war.