Milosevic Could Be a Prime Suspect in Arkan Slaying

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Whoever killed Serbian warlord Zeljko Raznatovic (better known as Arkan) on Saturday wanted it to look like a mob hit. "But there's only one serious organized crime family in Serbia, and it's headed by Milosevic," says TIME Central Europe bureau reporter Dejan Anastasijevic. "Arkan was a member, and he did a lot of dirty work for Milosevic. There's not much doubt who did the killing, because Arkan's association with Milosevic meant that nobody else in Serbia would dare to act against him." Serbian opposition leaders on Sunday directly accused the government of authoring the hit, in which masked gunmen fired 38 bullets in a crowded hotel lobby before making a casual exit.

Serbia's embattled president would certainly have had a motive to get rid of the hatchet man who, like Milosevic, faces war crimes charges at the International Tribunal in The Hague. "Arkan knew more about Milosevic's dirty work than most, and he'd have made a useful prosecution witness if Slobo was ever brought to trial," says Anastasijevic. The commander of the notorious Tiger militia charged with mass killings in Bosnia was rumored to be negotiating for a reduced sentence in exchange for his own testimony against Milosevic at the Hague. But even more troubling to the Serbian president were the signals in recent years that Raznatovic was hedging his political bets. "Arkan has a close relationship with the pro-Western government in Montenegro, and he'd been courting Serbian opposition leaders," says Anastasijevic. "Milosevic is bracing for trouble, and he didn't want to see a man as dangerous as Arkan cross over to the other side." The violent end of one of his most trusted lieutenants may be a sign that Slobodan Milosevic is feeling threatened. And that he has no intention of going quietly.