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Karadzic hid in plain sight

Ex-Bosnian Serb leader charged with war crimes faked ID, altered looks.

Photo released by Belgrade’s Healthy Life magazine Tuesday shows former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic.

AP photo

BELGRADE, Serbia — Radovan Karadzic grew a long, white beard to conceal his identity and even managed to openly practice alternative medicine while in hiding, officials said Tuesday in revealing details of the war crimes fugitive’s capture after a decade on the run.

Karadzic, the wartime leader of Bosnian Serbs, was arrested Monday night in a Belgrade suburb, officials said. A judge has ordered his transfer to the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, to face genocide charges, war crimes prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic said.

Karadzic has three days to appeal the ruling. His lawyer, Sveta Vujacic, said he will launch the process to fight extradition on the last day, Friday, to thwart authorities’ wishes for his immediate transfer.

Karadzic — a psychiatrist accused of masterminding the deadly wartime siege of Sarajevo and the executions of up to 8,000 Muslims in Srebrenica during Bosnia’s 1992-95 war, Europe’s worst massacre since World War II — had topped the tribunal’s most-wanted list for years.

Government official Rasim Ljajic said Karadzic, once known for his distinctively coifed hairdo, was unrecognizable.

“His false identity was very convincing,” Vukcevic said. “Even his landlords were unaware of his identity.”

Karadzic used a false name, Dragan Dabic, Ljajic said.

The editor in chief of Belgrade’s Healthy Life magazine, Goran Kojic, said he was shocked when he saw the photo of Karadzic on TV, recognizing him as a regular contributor to the publication.

“It never even occurred to me that this man with a long white beard and hair was Karadzic,” Kojic said.

Karadzic’s whereabouts had been a mystery since he went on the run in 1998, with his hideouts reportedly including monasteries and mountain caves in remote eastern Bosnia.

Serbian security services found Karadzic, 63, on Monday while looking for another top war crimes suspect facing genocide charges, Bosnian Serb wartime commander Gen. Ratko Mladic, Ljajic said.

Karadzic “was arrested Monday evening near Belgrade while changing locations,” he said. “International pressure was to arrest Mladic, and a few had expected that Karadzic would be captured.”

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