BELGRADE, Serbia-Montenegro – Serbian police on Friday briefly sealed off a Belgrade neighborhood in a hunt for war crimes suspect Ratko Mladic, and detained two more of the fugitive general's alleged associates.
Security officers fanned out through the residential area of Banovo Brdo where Darko Mladic — the son of the former Bosnian Serb commander sought on genocide charges by a U.N. court — lives in the Mladic family home.
The police left after a two-hour search, declining comment. Witnesses later told the Associated Press that the police searched the homes of Mladic's neighbors and his son's computer shop nearby.
The state television reported later Friday that similar special police actions were being carried out in several towns in Serbia.
Authorities, meanwhile, arrested two people on suspicion of helping Mladic evade justice, said Belgrade District Court spokeswoman Marina Klaric-Zivkovic. One of the detained suspects is believed to be a retired ranking Bosnian Serb security officer, Marko Lugonja, the state TV said.
The police action comes after Serbia's government pledged to step up efforts to hunt down Mladic and thus revoke an EU suspension of pre-membership talks with Belgrade.
In Vienna, Austria, Serbia's Interior Minister, Dragan Jocic, told reporters that "today, tomorrow and in the coming days, the search for Ratko Mladic will be very intense."
"We are doing all we can so that Ratko Mladic will be handed over as soon as possible" to the tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, Jocic was quoted as saying by the Belgrade-based Tanjug news agency.
Belgrade's failure to extradite Mladic to the Hague court has prompted Brussels to suspend talks on establishing closer ties with Serbia. EU officials have said that the negotiations will be restarted as soon as Mladic is handed over to the Hague court.
Jocic said that "the Serbian state and its government has a free hand to protect the people and not to allow anybody to limit Serbia's path into the European Union."
The latest arrests Friday bring to 10 the total number of people rounded up in recent months on suspicion of assisting Mladic.
Also Friday, Serbia's intelligence service — the Security Information Agency — set up a telephone hot line for tips about Mladic's whereabouts, urging the public to help with any information about the elusive general.
U.N. war crimes prosecutor have blamed the Serbian government for Mladic still being at large. They recently said he was hiding in the capital and changing apartments daily.
Mladic has been charged with genocide for the slaughter of up to 8,000 Muslims in eastern Bosnia in 1995.