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Croatia Detains Dozens In Crime Crackdown

ZAGREB (Reuters) -- Croatian police said on October 28 they had detained dozens of suspects in a crackdown on organised crime ordered by authorities after a series of high-profile murders.

The operation was launched after a bomb killed a prominent newspaper editor in Zagreb on October 23, a murder that prompted Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader to declare an all-out war on the local mafia.

"Several dozen people have been brought in for questioning," police spokesman Krunoslav Borovec said.

The journalist, Ivo Pukanic, was editor of the "Nacional" weekly, which often exposed corruption and human rights abuses.

Dealing with organised crime and corruption is among the main requirements Zagreb has to meet if it wants to complete EU accession talks next year.

Some 250 extra policemen have been brought to Zagreb and security agencies have started liaising with police in neighbouring Serbia, Bosnia, and Montenegro, police said.

Asked if police were casting a wide net and that the arrests were related not only to the latest murder, Borovec said: "You could say that. We are working on all the unresolved cases, much more intensely than before."

The "Vecernji List" daily quoted Vladimir Faber, the new national police chief, as saying the aim of the arrests was to "delve as deep and as wide into the criminal milieu and find those who could have something to do with the murders."

The daily said the police action resembled a crackdown on criminal gangs neighbouring Serbia had launched after the assassination of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic in 2003.

Sanader sacked the interior and justice ministers and appointed a new national police chief earlier this month, after the daughter of a prominent lawyer was shot dead.

A special police unit, which the media dubbed "Croatia's FBI," started work this week. Its special investigators will work with the state prosecutors and the national anti-corruption bureau on supervising suspects and tracking down the origin of their property.