NPR logo Ratko Mladic Led Offensive That Overran Srebrenica

Ratko Mladic Led Offensive That Overran Srebrenica

A picture on a poster shows Bosnian Serb war crime fugitive Ratko Mladic. Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP/Getty Images

A picture on a poster shows Bosnian Serb war crime fugitive Ratko Mladic.

Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP/Getty Images

Learn About Karadzic

After living more than a dozen years as a fugitive, Radovan Karadzic now awaits trial for war crimes. The former Bosnian Serb leader has been turned over to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague.

Read a profile of Karadzic and view a timeline of his political life.

Now that former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic is in custody and facing war-crimes charges, international pressure is increasing on the Serbs to arrest Karadzic's partner during the Bosnian War, Gen. Ratko Mladic.

The office of Serbia's war-crimes prosecutor has said that its investigators were actually trying to trace associates of the general when they stumbled across Karadzic in Belgrade in his disguise as Dragan Dabic, a practitioner of alternative medicine.

Mladic commanded the Bosnian Serb Army throughout the Bosnian War, from 1992 to 1995. He directed the siege of the Bosnia capital, Sarajevo, and led the offensive that overran the U.N.-protected enclave of Srebrenica. His army and Serbian paramilitary forces slaughtered about 8,000 Muslim prisoners, men and boys, after the city fell.

On the Run

Although he was indicted in 1995 on war-crimes charges by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Mladic lived openly in Belgrade, under the protection of the Serbian Army and former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

After Milosevic was arrested on war-crimes charges in 2001, Mladic disappeared from public view. At various times since then, he was reported to have been in hiding in Bosnia, Montenegro and even in Belgrade.

Before The War

Mladic was born in a village in Bosnia in 1942, under the Nazi occupation of Yugoslavia during World War II. He attended military schools and became an officer in the Yugoslav People's Army in 1965.

When Yugoslavia began to disintegrate in 1991, Mladic was promoted to major general and led Yugoslav government forces against the army of Croatia. He was accused of participating in so-called "ethnic cleansing" after his artillery destroyed Croatian homes and farms in and around the village of Kijevo.

After Bosnia declared its independence in 1992, Mladic officially resigned his Yugoslav Army command in order to take charge of the newly created Army of Republika Srpska, the breakaway Serb ministate in Bosnia.

In practice, the Bosnian Serb army consisted mainly of the Bosnia-based units of the Yugoslav army. As the Serb army commander in Bosnia, Mladic directed the siege of Sarajevo, on the orders of the Serb political leadership. His troops blocked nearly all movement in and out of Sarajevo, shelled the city, and directed sniper fire at civilians from the nearby hillsides during a siege that lasted more than three years.

In a series of attacks, the Bosnian Serb forces under Mladic's command took control of about 70 percent of the country.

Eventual Dismissal

In 1994, Bosnian Serb President Radovan Karadzic tried to remove Mladic from his post, after the army lost control of two western Bosnian towns. Mladic refused to step down, and his support among the security forces was strong enough that Karadzic was forced to rescind the order a few days later.

Mladic was finally dismissed as commander by Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic in late 1995, after the war was over.

Carla Del Ponte, the former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, claimed on several occasions that Serbian officials knew Mladic's whereabouts and could have captured him if they wished.

Mladic's health has reportedly been poor in recent years, with rumors that he may have suffered one or more strokes. There also are reports that age and ill health may have altered his appearance.