July 25, 2008

Karadzic ‘Stole Identity of Sniper Victim’

By Vesna Peric Simonjic

Serbian authorities are attempting to unravel the shadowy support network that enabled the former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic to assume a false identity and evade capture on UN genocide charges for more than a decade.

Investigators were looking at claims that the war crimes fugitive stole the identity of a man murdered by snipers in Sarajevo, who were under the command of Mr Karadzic himself.

The false ID being used by Mr Karadzic in his second life as Dragan Dabic was issued to back in 1998, in the small town of Ruma, 40 miles west of Belgrade.

While reporters besieged the house of a local 63-year-old named Dragan Dabic in Ruma, it seems another Dragan Dabic served as the basis for Mr Karadzic's new identity.

The dead man was a 39-year old Sarajevo Serb, killed by sniper fire in 1993, during the siege of the city - masterminded by Mr Karadzic. The brother of the murdered man, Mladen Dabic, told local TV in Bosnia-Herzegovina he was "flabbergasted" by the possibility that Mr Karadzic used the identity of his brother.

"My brother was killed in 1993 by a sniper bullet when he went to collect humanitarian aid", Mladen Dabic said. "This is amazing, horrifying. My brother was running across a street and the sniper bullet came from the direction of Vrace." At the time, the Vrace neighbourhood was under the control of Serbs.

However, there was confusion as there were several men with that name in Sarajevo at the time and Bruno Vekaric, the spokesman for Serbia's war crimes prosecutor refused to speculate. "There are seven Dragan Dabics in Sarajevo, dead or alive," he said.

Analysts say the identity theft represents a clear abuse of a database of missing persons on the Serbian side during the 1992-95 war. It also appears to confirm suspicions that the fugitive was being protected by a network of high placed Serbs. Police sources said Mr Karadzic had several sets of false documents in different names when he was captured.

The ID could have been obtained by co-operation between Bosnian Serb police officials, working with colleagues in Serbia proper. Links between Bosnian Serb security services and Belgrade were very strong until the fall of Slobodan Milosevic in 2000.

"He got the false identity when his friends were in power in Republic of Srpska (Serbia), and the political ambience in Serbia was favourable for him as well at that time," a Serbian war crimes prosecutor, Vladimir Vukcevic, said yesterday.

In the meantime, there is no more mystery surrounding Mila, the woman who has been assumed to be Mr Karadzic's lover while he was pretending to be Dragan Dabic. She is Mila Damjanov, 53, a divorcee and former nurse at one of the Belgrade health care centres. She lives in the suburb of Zemun with her son. Ms Damjanov claims Mr Dabic was only her "friend and teacher" and denies any relationship or love affair with him. She described him as "a religious man," who told her his family was in the US, including his four grandchildren.

Mr Karadzic's brother Luka told reporters yesterday that she was described by Radovan as "only one of the women who attended his lectures." In the meantime, Mr Karadzic's real family is trying to reach Serbia. They have been prevented from doing so for the time being. because their travel papers are being held.

His daughter Sonja said she "was not angry at Dad". She said: "All that we hear and see about his new life and new identity seems weird, like science fiction," she said. She appealed to the authorities to return the papers to the family.


Originally published by By Vesna Peric Simonjic in Belgrade.

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