Who Dunnit?

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Newspaper circulations have skyrocketed and Belgrade's cafes resound with fresh theories on who ordered the hit. One even has the murder victim still alive, having staged his own death to flee to a sunnier clime. But the truth about who killed the notorious Serb warlord "Arkan," or Zeljko Raznatovic, on Jan. 15 remained elusive last week.

Journalists reported that police had captured three of the killers' accomplices, including a man thought to have worked for the Yugoslav special forces. Another four attackers reportedly left the country. But there were more theories than facts about who ordered the killing of a man wanted by the Hague-based war crimes tribunal for his role in the 1991-95 "ethnic cleansing" of Croatia and Bosnia.

Given Arkan's outsized image in Serbian society--bank robber, militia leader, sports club owner, gangster--the hubbub is hardly surprising. His life traversed both the glamour and the violent underside of 1990s Belgrade. Thousands were at his funeral, some to gawk at his weeping widow, the folksinger Ceca, others to mourn. As the flag-draped coffin was lowered into the grave by an honor guard in battle fatigues a leader proclaimed: "Commander, I hereby submit the last report: the status of the Serbian Volunteer Guard is normal." Another saluted his fallen hero as "soldier, sportsman and humanitarian."

Yugoslav authorities, meantime, struggled to regain their footing after being caught off guard by opposition charges that they orchestrated the killing. Information Minister Goran Matic indignantly denied it. In an interview with the New York Times he fingered the "Montenegrin Mafia," but then claimed that he had never given the interview. "There was a lot of confusion at first," says Filip Schwarm, political editor of the independent newsweekly Vreme. More worrying was the predictable move by the government to silence its critics. In what could be the most damaging legacy of the killing, a state prosecutor has begun legal proceedings against leaders of both opposition parties and the opposition-run television station in Belgrade, Studio B, for "alarming the public and disseminating false information." The offense carries up to three years in prison. That will surely chill speculation for a while.

With reporting by Dejan Anastasijevic/Vienna