Skip to main content
March 6, 1995
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 179
The Strpci Kidnapping Two years Later


by Filip Svarm, Velizar Brajovic and the VREME Documentation Center

The relatives hounded every republican and federal official they could reach and staged a hunger strike. Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic received them in Belgrade on May 26, 1993 and promised to move heaven and earth to find out what happened to their kin. Serbian internal affairs minister Zoran Sokolovic told the families earlier: "what kind of ministers would we be if we can't find them". Yugoslav president Zoran Lilic said he would gladly meet the Montenegrin committee if they asked through official channels.

The Belgrade Fund for Humanitarian Law determined that a group of armed men in uniforms with Chetnik insignia climbed on the train in Belgrade. Witnesses said the conductor and two policemen checked ID cards and wrote the names on the tickets, claiming it was a measure against smugglers. Driver Zeljko Radojcic stopped the train in Strpci after being signaled by stationmaster Slobodan Icagic. So far, no one has asked them to testify. VREME has learned that Icagic said a group of armed soldiers ordered him to stop the train.

Podgorica weekly Monitor (August 26, 1994) said Ivica Martinovic from Vinkovci was also abducted then. He was a soldier on leave from a Podgorica barracks. His abduction was explained as a mistake because he had documents issued in Croatia. He was released once the abductors found out his father had been killed fighting Croatian troops in Slavonia and he returned to his barracks. Monitor said Milovan Tripkovic, one of the kidnappers, was treated in hospital in Zemun several months later. It added that he claimed he had been ordered into action via a fax received from Belgrade in Strpci. Monitor wondered why all these people weren't interrogated.

Soon after the kidnapping, the Serbian police said they had contacted the authorities in the Bosnian Serb Republic (RS). A member of Milosevic's cabinet told one of the grieving mothers that Radovan Karadzic had promised to personally take care of things as soon as possible. On July 6, 1993, the RS authorities sent a statement to Belgrade. It said the RS army had broken up a para-military group (the kidnappers) and added that the group had been manipulated by foreign intelligence services. And that was that. No names were given, no one was taken to court and most importantly there wasn't even a hint of what happened to the abductees. The relatives continued doing their rounds of officials with no visible result and in December 1993, the Montenegrin parliament formed its committee.

It seemed that the kidnapping had been covered up as well as an earlier kidnapping of 17 Muslim FRY citizens in Sjeverin but then Zoran Lilic returned with a bang. He told Politika daily that everyone knew the chief abductor was a man named Lukic who had been arrested by "our police at great risk to their lives". Yugoslavia handed him over to the RS because they had promised to put him on trial. Lukic was released as soon as he got to the RS and even rewarded by RS leaders. That made it clear who the organizer of the abduction was. The basic goal was to cause bloodshed in the Prijepolje and Priboj area and expand the war to Serbia and Montenegro through that ethnically mixed area.

Bozidar Vucurevic, the mayor of Trebinje (in the RS), responded to Lilic's statement: "Lilic has lowered himself to the level of a police station commander.

Konstantin Obradovic, an expert on international law, feels that the legal interpretation has to mean a trial for Lukic in Yugoslavia (VREME, August 29, 1994) since FRY citizens cannot be extradited to other states under the criminal code.

So it seems the Yugoslav president only recalled the Strpci kidnapping for his daily political needs. The rift between Belgrade and Pale was deepening and the kidnapping provided a cause of embarrassment for Karadzic and his people. Also, the RS can't remove doubts of its involvement.

Lukic's role is mysterious. We know his name is Milan. The Humanitarian Law Fund found out that he had been arrested several times. The first time was on October 20, 1992 when he and a man named Dragicevic were caught with weapons in Sjeverin soon after the kidnapping there. Sokolovic said there was suspicion of their involvement but they were released quickly. The Serbian police said they had no evidence to keep them in jail (they were caught with weapons in the FRY because they were in charge of getting arms to the RS). Lukic was arrested again in Serbia in March 1993 and stood trial in two Belgrade courts for attempted robbery, forgery and possessing prohibited weapons. He got a suspended sentence. He was arrested a third time on April 16 on suspicion of murder and arms charges. He got a year and three months in jail but that was reduced to eight months. All in all, he spent nine months in jail. While he was in jail, a rumor surfaced that Serbia had the man who committed the Strpci kidnapping but no name was mentioned.

Lukic was released on April 6, 1994, arrested again the same day and transferred from Pozarevac jail to Belgrade on suspicion of abduction. He spent April in jail and was released and arrested again. This time the arrest was at the request of the Pale authorities who wanted him handed over to them. Finally, on May 27, 1994, Milan Lukic was turned over to RS authorities and released. Then federal justice minister Zoran Stojanovic told TV Politika he didn't know who handed Milan Lukic over to the RS.

Now, Democratic Party (DS) federal parliament deputy Miodrag Perisic said he was astonished by the fact that there is a silent agreement not to reveal anything about the kidnapping. Serbian Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj accused the League of Communists - Movement For Yugoslavia of organizing the kidnapping in league with the counterespionage service. High ranking Serbian Socialist Party officials (Borisav Jovic, Ivica Dacic and Goran Percevic) refused to comment when Beta news agency asked.

Mujo Bacic, whose son was abducted, told the Podgorica press conference: "It's hard when I don't know anything about my son, when I don't know if he's alive or dead. Many people grieve with us but the authorities have no understanding. They said Strpci is in another state and we know the Yugoslav Army controlled the area around Strpci at the time."


Rifat Rastoder: Spokesman for the Abductee Families

Hiding the Crime

VREME: What specifically have the authorities done to shed some light on the Strpci kidnapping?

RASTODER: Apart from the initial condolences and many promises, the authorities in Serbia and Montenegro have done nothing to shed light on the kidnapping and possibly even save the lives of the abductees, despite many reliable leads and facts. They did do everything to cover up the crime. I can prove that claim with a number of documents and the things the families and several humanitarian agencies found out.

VREME: Can you tell us more about the abductees?

RASTODER: I'll repeat what we say constantly for the sake of the public and the moral dignity of the abductees and their families. Abductee Ismet Babacic was returning from a business meeting (should I stress he was meeting Serbs in Zlatibor) that his friend Boskovic from Podgorica organized. Esad Kapetanovic was returning from Belgrade where he worked to Bijelo Polje to pick up his draft notice from his parents' home. Ilijaz Licina, a worker from Belgrade, was going to spend the weekend with his family in Lozna. Witnesses said he was carrying some food and a sack of flour. Fehim Bakija was also going to see his family as well as Seco Softic and Jusuf Rastoder. Rifat Husovic was returning home from Belgrade, Minor Esad Djecevic was with him by chance. Halil Zupcevic, a refugee from Trebinje was returning from Belgrade where he tried to get a visa to go abroad. Zvjezdan Zulicic, another refugee, left Serbia where he was a soccer player to see his mother's family in Niksic.

Those people are the "suspicious elements", innocent helpless people who were grabbed by criminals under someone's orders.


The List

The Sandzak Human Rights Committee in Novi Pazar released a list in May 1994 of the people kidnapped from train 671 at Strpci station on February 27, 1993.

1. Alomerovic Adem (59), Prijepolje, worker, father of four.

2. Bakija Fehim (43), Bijelo Polje, worker, father of three.

3. Babcic Ismet (30), Podgorica, married.

4. Ilusovic Rifat (26) Bijelo Polje, worker from Bijelo Polje.

5. Samir Rastoder (45), Podgorica, employed in Belgrade.

6. Kapetanovic Esad (19), Podogorica, father of one.

7. Licina Ilijaz (43), Bijelo Polje, employed in Belgrade.

8. Nihad Sahman (30), Bijelo Polje, worker, father of one.

9, Djecevic Senada (16), Bar, pupil.

10. Zupcevic Halil (49), refugee, father of two.

11. Coric Rasim (40), Zaluga village, worker, father of three.

12. Nijazim Kajevic (30), Prijepolje, post office employee.

13. Fikret Memovic (40), Prijepolje, post office employee, father of two.

14. Hanic Muhidin (27), Prijepolje, worker in Belgrade.

15. Softic Seco (48), Bijelo POlje, worker in Belgrade.

16. Topuzovic Dzafer (55), Prijepolje, worker.

17. Preljevic Safet (22), Prijepolje, employed in Belgrade, father of one.

18. Zekovic Fevzija (54), Prijepolje, shop owner in Kraljevo, father of three.

19. Toma Buzov, army pensioner from Belgrade.

20. Zvjezdan Zulicic (23), student, refugee from Sarajevo.

21. Fehim Sejific (43), Vrba village, worker, father of four.


Meeting the President

"A silence fell over the hall when president Milosevic appeared. He stopped in front of the table. He looked over everyone in front of him. I had the impression that he stopped at every person there, to remember the face. Zoran Sokolovic sat down beside him. During the two hour talks, the minister lifted his eye off the table only twice. He didn't raise his head even when the president asked him something: "Zoran, did you know the things these people are telling you?; Zoran, have the witnesses been interrogated?; Zoran, we have the man who did this."... Police minister Sokolovic mostly nodded his head and he said about that man (Lukic): "President, to speak plainly, we kidnapped him". I'm not sure, but I think Milosevic looked at him angrily and barked: "Do what you want, just keep him here!"

Certainly, the president seemed worried, convincing and everyone left with high hopes. He left the impression that he would move heaven and earth. He left a big impression on me as well. He didn't say a word out of place. He listened to everyone carefully, asked questions, showed anger over the stupid replies by the police minister..."

Natasa Kandic, human rights activist, After Meeting Slobodan Milosevic

© Copyright VREME NDA (1991-2001), all rights reserved.