Karadzic's Dual Life: War Fugitive, New Age Mystic Since the arrest of Radovan Karadzic, the media in Belgrade have been filled with details of how he lived on the run for more than a decade. The former Bosnian Serb leader wanted for war crimes was passing himself off as a New Age mystic.
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Karadzic's Dual Life: War Fugitive, New Age Mystic

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Karadzic's Dual Life: War Fugitive, New Age Mystic

Karadzic's Dual Life: War Fugitive, New Age Mystic

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It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm Deborah Amos. Two days after the arrest of Radovan Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb leader wanted for war crimes, the media in Belgrade is filled today with details of his double life.

He disappeared more than a decade ago, after his indictment for war crimes, and he reappeared with a new identity, passing himself off as a new-age health guru. Karadzic practiced alternative medicine, he wrote articles, he even lectured under an alias. To learn more, NPR's Sylvia Poggioli joins us from Belgrade. Good morning.

SYLVIA POGGIOLI: Good morning, Deborah.

AMOS: Share with us the details of his life as a fugitive as you know them.

POGGIOLI: Well, you know, for years, there were rumors that Karadzic was in Bosnia or in Montenegro, hiding in monasteries or even caves. There were also lots of reports that NATO peacekeepers based in Bosnia maybe looked the other way, and they knew exactly where he was. In any case, there's been a lot of rumors, but now it turns out that at least for the last couple of years, he was here in New Belgrade. It's an area of very anonymous-looking high-rise buildings, where it's easy to blend into the scenery and lose your identity -and especially if you change your disguise. And, you know, as you said, Karadzic looks completely different today: long, white hair, white beard. He looks more like a character out of Tolkien or Harry Potter than the very showy, pompous wartime leader that I remember.

AMOS: When I look at those photographs, I wonder. It's really hard to tell that it's him.

POGGIOLI: Absolutely. I mean, looking at one next to the other, it's totally different. It just shows that - how easy it is, actually, to completely transform yourself. He's also a lot thinner than he used to be.

You know, he was originally trained as a psychiatrist, but now as a fugitive, he passed himself as an expert in something called human quantum energy. He used the name D.D. David, or Dragon Dabic, and it turns out he gave lectures all over Serbia on alternative medicine.

AMOS: He even had his own Web site, I've read.

POGGIOLI: Exactly. And it has photos of metal, bullet-shaped amulets, orthodox crosses. It offers alternative cures and meditation for diabetes, stress, depression, even impotence. He was a regular contributor to the Serbian alternative medicine magazine, Healthy Life. He signed himself as spiritual researcher, and his editor was really shocked to see who his contributor really was.

And today, the newspaper Blitz carried interviews with average people who say they knew him as Dragon Dabic, and there's really one incredible anecdote. Karadzic, aka Dabic, was a regular customer at a cafe, a hard-line nationalist hangout. He would go there and pick up a traditional Serbian stringed instrument and strum along as he recited mournful Serbian epic poems of his own composition. And the cafe owner said that he always sat facing photographs on the wall of the other wanted war-crime criminal, Ratko Mladic, and of Radovan Karadzic.

So, you know, it's clear he moved around in circles that were friendly to the nationalist cause, so it's hard to say how honest all these people are who claim surprise at learning who Dabic really is. But, you know, in this daring public exposure, I do recognize one aspect of the personality of Radovan Karadzic of 15 years ago. He was inveterate gambler. He loved poker, and we reporters often had to, you know, track him down in gambling casinos in Geneva when the (unintelligible) peace negotiations were underway. But, you know, he lost the game after 13 years.

AMOS: Well, you bring up General Ratko Mladic, who also is wanted on war-crime charges. Are the Serbian authorities any closer to finding him? That's who they were after when they stumbled upon Radovan Karadzic.

POGGIOLI: You know, they've been giving very, very few details. We really don't even know the exact details of how Karadzic was arrested. They just said between one - as he was moving between one location and the other. And they said that they are purposefully not giving details because they want to study, they want to analyze the way Karadzic moved - that's what they say - in preparation for Mladic's arrest.

In other words, they will not reveal anything until Mladic has been arrested. It's basically now - the political atmosphere, the new government, it looks like it could happen soon because this was certainly done by a new government that is pro-Western, wants to end Serbia's international isolation, and that depends on handing over the war criminals. So sooner or later, it is likely that Mladic will be arrested.

AMOS: Thank you very much. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli in Belgrade.

POGGIOLI: Thank you, Deborah.

AMOS: You can view a timeline of Karadzic's involvement in the Bosnian War and read a profile of the former Bosnian Serb leader at npr.org.

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