U.S. Takes Further Military Steps in Response to Mladic's Threat

Article excerpt

The Pentagon yesterday said it increased the size of patrols in Bosnia in the wake of a threat last week by Bosnian Serb military leader Gen. Ratko Mladic to kidnap soldiers of the NATO Implementation Force (Ifor) who pass through Serbian-held territory.

"The U.S. forces that are there as part of Ifor, as well as all the other forces, are taking this seriously and being sure they're taking precautions to make sure this doesn't happen," Air Force Lt. Gen. Howell Estes, chief of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters.

U.S. intelligence sources told The Washington Times that Gen. Mladic had issued orders last week for his Bosnian Serb forces to begin "gathering" soldiers as they travel on roads that cross Bosnian Serb lines in the divided nation.

Gen. Mladic, who is being sought on war-crimes charges, called for the kidnappings in retaliation for the arrest of two Bosnian Serb military officers on war-crimes charges.

Gen. Estes said that, in response to the threat, U.S. patrols were beefed up. "We didn't send out small patrols," he said, adding that all convoys were required to have a minimum of four vehicles.

"That kind of thing . . . was one direct outcome of what happened last week," he said.

U.S. intelligence sources said Gen. Mladic made the Feb. 14 threat because he was angered over the Jan. 30 arrests of Gen. Djordje Djukic and Col. Aleksa Krsmanovic.

"We take all threats seriously," Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon said. "It may well be an inaccurate report, but we don't have the luxury of waiting."

"He's a threatening character," Mr. Bacon said of Gen. Mladic. "This so far is a threat which we have seen no evidence he's tried to deliver. But we are ready. We're prepared."

Administration officials appeared anxious to play down the threat yesterday, concerned that the kidnapping of NATO soldiers would create a hostage situation and involve U. …