How the assassins of Serbia’s prime minister were captured in Valencia

For years, Belgrade had tried to track down members of the Zemun Clan Police found an arsenal of weapons at the homes of the gang members

Interior Minister Fernández Díaz shows armory captured from Serbian gang in Spain.
Interior Minister Fernández Díaz shows armory captured from Serbian gang in Spain.LUIS SEVILLANO (El Pais)

On March 3, 2003, Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic was assassinated by a sniper shooting a telescopic rifle from a nearby building. Djindjic had made a lot of enemies with his reformist policies, but most importantly by his crusade to send Slobodan Milosevic to the International Court of Justice in The Hague to face war crimes.

The Zemun Clan criminal band — which was created by members from the paramilitary group The Arkan Tigers — was blamed for Djindjic’s murder. The list of the Zemun Clan’s criminal activities is long — money laundering, prostitution, drug trafficking, shakedowns and extortion schemes.

The man who fired the fatal shots at Djindjic was Vladimir Milisavljevic, who was acting on orders from the head of the Zemun Clan, Luka Bojovic. Since then, an international manhunt was undertaken to try to track both men. The search was over last Thursday when authorities arrested Bojovic and Milisavljevic, along with other members of the clan, at a Valencia hotel.

On Monday, Interior Minister Jorge Fernández met with Serbia’s ambassador to Spain, Jela Bacovic, who thanked him for Spain’s assistance in arresting the fugitives,

It all began two years ago when Serbian police asked their Spanish counterparts for help. They suspected that Bojovic, 39, was in living in a small town outside Benidorm with his wife and children, completely integrated with the rest of the community. His children were enrolled under their real names in a local school, where they were good students. Although no one was able to spot Bojovic, they believed he was living with his family.

Bojovic was very careful where he went and how he traveled — he never rode in automobiles, but instead took taxis; he constantly changed his itinerary; and would never enter a building without going around the corner several times. Police never saw him with his wife or children, but he knew that he was under surveillance.

Police had already tracked down another man, Vladimir Mijanovic, who was Bojovic’s right-hand man, but wasn’t wanted on any charges in his home country. Last week, Mijanovic arrived in Madrid on a flight from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. He took a taxi to Valencia, and that is when Operation Zoo — Bojovic’s father owned a zoo — began.

In Valencia, Mijanovic met with another wanted hitman Sinisa Petric. They planned on meeting up with the rest of the Zemun Clan later that day at a downtown restaurant. At that meal was Milisavljevic, the man who killed Djindjic, and Bojovic.

Eight officers entered the restaurant. “Get up, Luka.” Bojovic shouted something in Serbian and the rest tried to escape but couldn’t. Police found an arsenal of weapons in subsequent searches of their homes.

On Saturday, High Court Judge Fernando Andreu ordered the four Serbians held in custody on weapons and other charges. Serbia is now asking for their extradition.

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