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TUZLA, Bosnia and Herzegovina — Peacekeepers arrested a Bosnian war hero for alleged war crimes that, if true, would have occurred almost eight years ago.

The soldier, who fought against Serb forces in the Bosnian war from 1992-95 was arrested Thursday night in his Tuzla home.

Acting on a sealed indictment from the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, peacekeepers nabbed Naser Oric, 36, the wartime commander of Bosnian Muslim troops in eastern Bosnia.

Oric was charged by The Hague with a number of war crimes: murder, cruel treatment, wanton destruction and plunder not justified by military necessity, according to the indictment, which is on the tribunal’s Web site. The sealed indictment brought against him March 28 was made public with his arrest.

The former police officer failed to stop his Bosnian Muslim troops from pillaging Serb homes and killing Serb civilians, according to the indictment. As the commander of forces in eastern Bosnia in Srebrenica, Bratunac, Zvornik and Vlasenica, he ordered, and in some cases participated in, the criminal activity, according to the indictment.

Oric is accused of detaining Serbs who were then beaten with wooden sticks, poles, steel pipes or baseball bats, in some cases to death. Kicking Serbs and pulling their teeth with rusty pliers were mentioned as well.

Oric was arrested without incident, Stabilization Forces said in a news release. Two helicopters could be seen hovering above Oric’s neighborhood during the arrest.

Just before the fall of Srebrenica into Serb hands on July 11, 1995 — when more than 7,500 civilian Muslim men and boys were killed — Oric was pulled out of Srebrenica and brought to Tuzla.

For his war successes, he was awarded the “Golden Lily,” the top military honor given by the Bosnian Army during the war.

Oric has lived in Tuzla with his family since 1995.

He was transferred to The Hague on Friday morning, and is expected to appear before the court next week.

The Women of Srebrenica, an organization that still presses for the arrest of Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic, the top Serb wartime military and civilian leaders who remain at large, condemned the arrest and blocked Tuzla streets for hours on Friday.

They insisted Oric was only defending the Muslims against the ethnic cleansing efforts of the Serb forces.

“This action is another step in NATO’s drive to detain the remaining war crime indictees,” said George Robertson, NATO secretary-general, during his visit to Sarajevo on Thursday and Friday. “Each fugitive sent to The Hague makes it easier to build a lasting peace in the Balkans.”

Of all the tribunal war crimes, indictments most are against Bosnian Serbs, and some against Bosnian Croats. Bosnian Muslims make up the smallest number.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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