BELGRADE, Serbia-Montenegro (AP) – The man arrested for allegedly assassinating Serbia’s pro-Western prime minister ran an elite police unit tied to organized crime and former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, authorities said yesterday.
Prime Minister Zoran Zivkovic, who succeeded Zoran Djindjic after his March 12 ambush slaying, identified the suspect as Zvezdan Jovanovic, a deputy commander of the Unit for Special Operations used by the former Yugoslav president during the 1990s wars in Bosnia and Croatia. Jovanovic was arrested Monday.
The Serbian government later ordered the unit disbanded, saying its 300 members must return their weapons, uniforms and insignia within 30 days.
Police also detained Sasa Pejakovic on suspicion of aiding Jovanovic, Zivkovic said.
The prime minister said police uncovered a German-made sniper rifle suspected of being the murder weapon used to assassinate Djindjic as he left an armored car in front of his downtown Belgrade headquarters. The weapon was found buried in the Serbian capital.
Late yesterday, a police statement said tests performed by ballistics experts indicated that Jovanovic “undoubtedly” fired the bullet that killed Djindjic.
Jovanovic had ties to the Zemun Clan, an organized crime ring blamed by authorities for plotting and carrying out Djindjic’s slaying, Zivkovic said.
“This is not the end of the investigation,” he said. “We are happy with what has been done, but we won’t be satisfied until all those involved in this murder are arrested and tried.”
Milosevic’s regime allowed crime figures to fight with notorious paramilitary units in the Balkan wars. After the conflicts, he gave them a free hand to join regular police forces linked to underworld figures running lucrative drug trafficking operations, authorities said.
Djindjic made enemies by declaring war on organized crime, which flourished in Serbia under Milosevic’s rule. He also angered some Serbs by pledging to arrest war crimes suspects wanted by the U.N. tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, where Milosevic now is being tried.