Suspect in Killing of Serbian Prime Minister Arrested

The suspected sniper who killed Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic two weeks ago has been arrested, the slain premier's successor said Tuesday.

Prime Minister Zoran Zivkovic identified the suspect in custody as Zvezdan Jovanovic, deputy commander of an elite unit of police troops formed by ex-President Slobodan Milosevic that remains operational and has links to organized crime.

Zivkovic said police found a German-made sniper rifle suspected of being the murder weapon. The weapon was found buried in Belgrade.

Another man, identified as Sasa Pejakovic, was arrested for allegedly aiding Jovanovic during the killing, he said.

Djindjic, Serbia's leading pro-Western politician, was killed by a sniper March 12 as he stepped out of an armored car in front of government headquarters in downtown Belgrade.

Authorities imposed a state of emergency, launching a major hunt for leading crime figures and their associates in the judiciary, police and other state services.

Dusan Maricic, the current commander of the elite police unit known as the Unit for Special Operations, was fired, Zivkovic said.

A police official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity that the unit -- still operational and based in the north of the republic -- would be disbanded.

"Some of them will be arrested, others dismissed or transferred to other police units," the official said of the unit members.

The sniper suspects had ties to an organized crime ring known as the Zemun Clan, which was accused of plotting and carrying out the slaying, Zivkovic said.

Jovanovic, 37, joined Serbia's paramilitaries -- who were dreaded during the 1990s wars in Croatia and Bosnia -- in 1991. The unit then was commanded by Zeljko Raznatovic, known as Arkan, who was slain in a Belgrade hotel in January 2000.

He joined the elite police unit -- considered Serbia's best-trained and best-armed -- in 1995. Authorities say he was a specialist in covert operations and was among the unit's top instructors.

Djindjic made enemies by declaring war on organized crime, which flourished in Serbia under Milosevic's rule. He also angered some Serbs by pledging to arrest war-crimes suspects wanted by the U.N. tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, where Milosevic now is being tried.

Milosevic's regime sent the crime figures to fight in notorious paramilitary units in the 1990s Balkan wars. After the conflicts, he gave them a free hand to run lucrative drug trafficking operations, authorities say.

Nearly 400 criminal charges have been filed against underworld figures detained after Djindjic's assassination, police said Monday.

More than 1,000 suspects remain in custody and likely will face criminal proceedings in the weeks to come, Dragan Sutanovac, head of the Serbian parliament's Security and Defense Board, told independent B-92 radio.

But prime suspects remain at large, authorities said. Those suspects include Milorad Lukovic, the former top commander of the police unit and the alleged leader of the Zemun Clan believed to have masterminded the slaying.

"This is not the end of the investigation," Zivkovic said. "We are happy with what has been done, but we won't be satisfied until all those involved in this murder are arrested and tried."