Ratko Mladic (photo, from nytimes.com), Bosnian Serb war crimes suspect, has been arrested early on Thursday in a village in the province of Vojvodina in northern Serbia, after 16 years on the run.
Three special units had descended on a house in the village of Lazarevo, about 80km north of Belgrade, Serbian security sources told AFP news agency.
Gen Mladic, 69, was living under the assumed name Milorad Komodic, in a house owned by one of his relative.
According to one of the AFP sources he had been under surveillance for the past two weeks.
Gen Mladic lived freely in the Serbian capital Belgrade, before disappearing in 2001, after the arrest of former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic.
He faces charges of genocide during the 1992-1995 Bosnian conflict. He is wanted by the United Nations war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
According to the UN indictment against him, Gen Mladic was the operational mastermind behind the Srebrenica massacre of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys, and took part in the 43-month siege of Sarajevo, the Bosnian capital, which killed around 10,000 people.
The indictment also says that the establishment of camps and detention centres for Bosnian Muslims was part of a campaign of ethnic cleansing.
Gen Mladic will appear before a Serbian judge later on Thursday and the process to extradite him to the war crimes tribunal in The Hague is under way, said Serbian president Boris Tadic.
In 2008, Radovan Karadzic was arrested, putting Gen Mladic on top of the list of Bosnian war crimes suspect at large.
Since then Serbia has been under international pressure to arrest him. President Tadic said this arrest brought his country and the region closer to reconciliation, adding that it also opened the doors to European Union membership to Serbia.
“We have been co-operating with the Hague tribunal fully from the beginning of the mandate of this government,” said Mr Tadic rejecting criticism that his country had been reluctant to seize Gen Mladic.
A spokeswoman for families of Srebrenica victims, Hajra Catic, told AFP news agency: “After 16 years of waiting, for us, the victims’ families, this is a relief.”
The arrest was welcomed by UN war crimes chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz : “Today’s events show that people responsible for grave violations of international humanitarian law can no longer count on impunity.”
Mr Brammertz added that UN prosecutors thanked the Serbian authorities for “meeting their obligations towards the tribunal and towards justice”.
Gen Mladic was indicted by the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague in 1995 for genocide over the killings that July at Srebrenica – the worst single atrocity in Europe since World War II – and other alleged crimes.
The announcement of the arrest was welcome by many international leaders, but not by Mr Karadzic. In a message from his UN cell in The Hague relayed by his lawyer to the Associated Press he said he was sorry, adding that he wanted to work with Gen Mladic “to bring out the truth” about the Bosnian war.