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Serb Volunteer Guard [SDG / SSJ] "Arkan's Tigers"

During the war in Bosnian the White Eagles paramilitary formation, Zeljko Raznatovic [better known as Arkan] organized a private army, the Serb Volunteer Guard [SDG / SSJ] "Tigers" in 1992. Arkan's men were in the beginning incorporated in the Ministry of Internal Affairs (the Krajina police owns the training center in Erdut in eastern Slavonia which was Arkan's main operating location) but with time they became a special unit with the Srem-Baranja corps. Arkan organized the SDG paramilitary forces first in Croatia and then in Bosnia-Herzegovina and, as such, committed many crimes.

Arkan was the author of massacres in 1991 in Eastern Slavonia, and of a campaign of "ethnic cleansing" in the eastern area of Bosnia against Bosnian Moslems. Some 1400 Bosniaks were killed in various ways Foca [Srbinje], starting on 6 April 1992 with the arrival of Arkan"s and other paramilitary groups. During their expeditions in the area all Muslim villages and the city suburbs in which mostly Bosniaks lived were burned to the ground. At the end of May 1992 these paramilitary units withdrew from the area, and following the withdrawal from western Bosnia, the SDG has been stationed in Erdut. According to estimates of the Serbian Helsinki Committee, about 20,000 refugees from Krajina went through Arkan's camp in Erdut in the fall of 1995, after being arrested and taken there by the Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs [MUP]. Arkan's forces withdrew from Erdut in April 1996.

The process of liquidating those close to Arkan began soon thereafter, as the Serbian State Security Service began actions against the criminals who used to work for it, but are now only unpleasant witnesses to crimes. Aleksandar Knezevic, Bojan Banovic, Bane Grebenarevic, Zoran Dimitrov-Zuca, and Nebojsa Djordjevic, who was a pensioned-off "colonel" of Arkan's "Serb Volunteer Guard," were all involved in the recruitment of volunteers for paramilitary formations (predominantly from among the criminals, prisons, and poor parts of the country). They were all killed very professionally within a very short period of time.

But Arkan was not on in the public list of 75 war crimes indictments issued by The Hague in 1996. In mid-1997, prompted by UN war crimes expert Serif Bajsuni's accusations in CNN's program "Wanted" that Interpol has seven warrants for Arkan, Interpol confirmed that Arkan was the subject of an international arrest warrant charging him with genocide.

Arkan, also wanted for robbery offences by several European police forces, led a high profile life in Yugoslavia, and was married to a glamorous folk singer, Ceca. In May 1998 Arkan was re-elected chairman of the Party of Serbian Unity (SSJ) for four years by the unanimous vote of the SSJ Assembly. In elections, the Kosovo Serbs chose Arkan as their parliamentary representative. He enriched himself from the spoils of these operations, and his holdings include at casino in Hotel Jugoslavija, and another two companies, one a transport company and the other a radio station.

In January 1998 unconfirmed reports placed paramilitary forces led by Zeljko Raznatovic-Arkan and Captain Dragan in the Skenderaj [Srbica] county in Drenice, Kosovo. But Party of Serbian Unity (SSJ) Deputy Chairman Borislav Pelevic stated on 07 February 1998 that the Serbian Voluntary Guard and its commander Zeljko Raznatovic-Arkan was not in Kosovo. Pelevic also said that, if the need arose, the guard would be able to immediately mobilize 3,000 men.

On 15 January 2000 assassins killed notorious Serb paramilitary leader and war crimes suspect Zeljko "Arkan" Raznatovic in a Belgrade hotel. Political opponents of Yugoslav President Milosevic said they thought Arkan's killers, who fired at least 38 bullets at close range in the hotel lobby on Saturday afternoon, would never be identified. A paramilitary who struck fear into hearts across the Balkans, Arkan was also a convicted bank robber and a former politician believed to have once had close ties to Milosevic's ruling circle. A surgeon from the city's Emergency Center said he had been hit at least three times in the face and was dead on arrival at the center. "He was hit in the mouth, eye and temple.

"Arkan," had been indicted by the ICTY in 1997 in connection with incidents that occurred in Bosnia and the Eastern Slavonia region of Croatia between 1991 and 1995. British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said he was not surprised that Arkan had died violently. "I regret his death because it prevents us doing justice to the victims of his atrocities by seeing him in the dock at the Hague tribunal," he said in London. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said in a statement during a visit to Panama: "We take no satisfaction in Arkan's murder and would have wanted him to stand trial in The Hague for his crimes."

A week after the slaying of Serb warlord Arkan, police announced the arrests of three suspects Saturday and implied that the killing was probably a gangland hit, not a political move to keep the victim quiet about Yugoslav war crimes. The announcement followed widespread rumors that President Slobodan Milosevicís security services had killed Arkan, because the warlord knew too much about high-level government involvement. Opposition groups questioned why this case was solved so quickly while others have remained unsolved for years and called on authorities to find out who ordered the killing and what the motives were.

Sources and Resources

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Created by John Pike
Maintained by Steven Aftergood
Updated Tuesday, February 01, 2000 2:55:38 PM