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Serbia: 65 Gang Members Arrested In Assassination Investigation

Belgrade, 13 March 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Serbia's government today began cracking down on a criminal gang believed to be linked to the assassination of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic (pictured) yesterday. The government, operating under a state of emergency, also began the process of running the country without a prime minister. The chairmanship of the cabinet will be rotated among four deputy prime ministers until parliament elects a new prime minister.

Acting Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic said 65 alleged gang members have been arrested, including the former chief of state security, Jovica Stanisic, and his deputy, Franko Simatovic. Covic said that of the 65 arrested, eight are directly linked to the assassination plot.

Hundreds of people today stood in line at the government building to sign a book of condolences. Djindjic will be buried in the Merit Alley of Belgrade's main cemetery on 15 March.

Also today, the European Union's foreign-policy chief, Javier Solana, and external-affairs commissioner, Chris Patten, expressed the EU's sympathy with the people of Serbia and its promise of continued political and financial support.