Twenty Bosnian Serbs taken into custody by U.S. federal authorities in this week were in the Bosnian Serb Army around the time the forces allegedly massacred thousands of Muslims in the region's ethnic conflict.
Andrew Pacheco, assistant U.S. Attorney for Arizona, said U.S. authorities received information from the United Nations' International Criminal Tribunal of the former Yugoslavia about the Serbs living in Phoenix.
All 20, living as refugees here, were in one of two brigades stationed in Srebrenica - the site of a massacre in July 1995, shortly before the end of the Bosnian war and after Serb troops took control of the town in the Balkan republic. Pacheco said federal authorities "do not allege that these people committed any type of wartime atrocity while in the Serbian Army."
Federal indictments filed Wednesday against the 13 Bosnian Serbs accused them of committing fraud by omitting on their immigration applications that they served in the army of the Republic of Srpska, the Serb-dominated part of Bosnia. The seven others face deportation hearings.
A spokesman for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement has said the seven detained would have been charged criminally for failing to declare their past military service but the statute of limitation ran out. The refugees arrested this week were stationed in brigades in the northeastern towns of Zvornik or Bratunac, Pacheco said.
Srebrenica fell to Bosnian Serb forces on July 11, 1995. The Bosnian Serbs then killed some 8,000 Muslim men and boys, Europe's worst massacre of civilians since World War II. The remains of the victims were buried in mass graves around Srebrenica. Several top Serb military and political officials already are serving sentences for war crimes in Srebrenica, AP reports.