Thursday, May 21, 2009

Serbia police disarm grenade man

Police in Belgrade have disarmed and arrested a man who had occupied part of the Serbian presidential buildings for several hours holding a live grenade.

The man, said to be angry over a legal dispute, had threatened to detonate the grenade if his case was not resolved.

He was reported to have sent thousands of e-mails warning of his intentions.

President Boris Tadic was reported to have arrived at the building shortly after the incident began but officials had said he was not in danger.

The man, identified by media as 57-year-old Dragan Maric, had been in the presidential buildings since late morning, holding a hand grenade with the safety pin removed.

He had threatened to detonate the grenade at 1600 local time (1400 GMT) but instead was disarmed by police.

"He's arrested. It's over," a senior police official was quoted by Reuters as saying.

"The bomb has been safely taken away from him after five hours of negotiations."

Jasmina Stojanov, a spokeswoman for Mr Tadic, said the man had approached the entrance to the building used by journalists and members of the public, abandoning one of his two grenades shortly after.

She said he had been "sealed off in a safety area between two entrance doors, one of them armoured doors", and had not entered secure areas.

Armed police arrived at the scene, along with Defence Minister Dragan Sutanovac.


Officials have not confirmed Mr Maric's motives, but he is reported to be a former businessman already known to the police.

The BBC's Serbian language service said Mr Maric is fighting a legal case against the state over multi-million dollar companies he says he owns.

He once staged an 80-day hunger strike in front of parliament to draw attention to his cause.

Officials said he sent an e-mail earlier in the day to 11,000 addresses outlining his plans.

Belgrade's Fox TV read out what it said were extracts from the e-mail, which he also wanted to give to Mr Tadic.

"By 1600 (1400GMT) the Serbian government and myself should sign an out of court settlement," it said. "Otherwise, the bomb will explode exactly at the previously specified time.

"Dying here is better than suffering under the tyranny of this regime."

The nearby Kralja Milana Street was reported to have been closed to traffic.