The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Gangster suspects in Serbia
- Deputy Prime Minister vows to snuff out mafia

Belgrade, March 13 (Reuters): Serbia said today that key gangland suspects behind the murder of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic were still at large as the country mourned the man they hoped would anchor it among Europe’s democracies.

Deputy Prime Minister Zarko Korac said despite a number of arrests overnight, the main suspects behind the assassination of the 50-year-old reformist Premier were “on the run”.

EU president Greece gave assurances that the 15-nation bloc would support Belgrade in its attempts to shore up stability in Serbia and the Balkans.

Korac vowed Serbia would press on with reforms to snuff out the mafia-like culture spawned under the turbulent rule of ousted Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, now on trial at the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

Korac was speaking to Belgrade’s B92 radio after the government accused a Belgrade-based criminal gang called Zemun for the murder and named around 20 of its alleged leaders.

“It is probably the most organised gang in the Balkans,” Korac said. “Police detained a number of people overnight. Most of those on the list of suspects are hiding.”

“According to the information we have, one of the prime suspects was an associate of the state security service. He has taken part in a number of assassinations. The other is a former special operations unit commander and he is on the run.”

Djindjic, who battled to transform his country from pariah state to a market-oriented democracy, was shot twice outside Belgrade’s main government building yesterday, an act that sent shock waves through Serbia and alarmed Western powers.

The government announced three days of mourning for Djindjic — the first European government leader to be killed since Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme in 1986 — and a memorial service was to be held in parliament later today.

It also declared a state of emergency, under which the army takes over police functions and civil rights can be restricted.

Djindic’s death leaves Serbia with neither a Prime Minister or elected President, but officials said deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic would step in as acting Prime Minister.

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