April 11, 1997

Milosevic's security chief gunned down

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia - A gunman killed the feared commander of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's security apparatus as he dined with his son in a Belgrade restaurant early Friday.

Media reports said police general and deputy Interior Minister Radovan Stojicic, who was known by the nickname of Badza, died instantly at his table as the masked assailant fled.

His shooting followed the murder in a shopping mall underpass in February of a close business associate of Milosevic's unpopular son Marko.

Public killings carried out with professional skill are regular occurrences in Belgrade but the victims have usually been members of the blackmarket mafia that has flourised under Milosevic's rule.

Stojicic, 46, who had been expected to take charge of the interior ministry shortly, was the highest ranking political figure to die in the shootings.

A career policeman who rose through the ranks with a reputation for toughness, his nickname Badza means Big Guy in Serbian.

He commanded riot police in Belgrade during three months of opposition street protests after election rigging last November by Milosevic's ruling Socialist party.

Earlier, Stojicic was one of the key figures in the arming of ethnic Serbs who rebelled in Croatia and Bosnia against the secession of the two republics from former Yugoslavia in 1991/92.

Milosevic promoted him to the highest police rank of colonel general last year.

Belgrade media said Stojicic was forced to warn Milosevic during the election protests that he could not count on the complete loyalty of the police if they were ordered to crack down on demonstrators.

The demonstrations were mainly peaceful until police with clubs launched a strong attack on peaceful protesters in late January after Milosevic had already decided to bow to opposition demands.