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Bosnia: The Mujahedin Unmasked
IWPR ^ | 6/20/08 | Merdijana Sadovic

Posted on 06/30/2008 11:49:57 PM PDT by Bokababe

Most of the mujahedin fighters who arrived to fight alongside government forces during the Bosnian war knew virtually nothing about the country.

“They joked about how at the beginning they didn’t know if Bosnia was in South America, North America, Europe or Australia,” said Evan F Kohlmann, an expert on terrorism and adviser to the American government and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The revelation is contained in a little-publicised book – “Al Qaeda in Bosnia: Myth or Reality?” by Vlado Azinovic – which tells more about the mujahedin and their role in the Bosnian war of 1992 to 1995 than any of the recent Hague tribunal trials in which they have featured, the latest being the prosecution of Bosnian army general Rasim Delic.

In the book, Radio Free Europe, RFE, editor Azinovic conducts interviews with journalists, politicians and FBI agents to provide an account of who the mujahedin were and how they came to Bosnia – some of the biggest mysteries of the bitter conflict.

The part played by the mujahedin has come under particular scrutiny in the Delic case, which closed last week as judges retired to consider a verdict.

Delic has been prosecuted for failing to prevent or punish crimes committed by the El-Mujahid detachment, which was meant to be subordinated to the 3rd Corps of the Bosnian army, ABiH, during the war. Members of the unit are alleged to have slaughtered and abused dozens of Croat and Serb prisoners between 1993 and 1995.

The Delic case, like others before it, examined the degree to which the Bosnian army exercised command responsibility over the mujahedin, but left a lot of questions about the group unanswered.


According to Azinovic’s account, the mujahedin movement which first came to Bosnia in 1992 grew out of the contingent of foreign Muslims who fought alongside Afghan resistance forces in their ten-year war against Soviet occupation.

“They were Arabs… mainly from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Algeria and Jordan,” said Kohlmann.

During the 1979-1989 war, Arab and other foreign Muslims fought as part of the Afghan mujahedin, supported by the United States and other powers, which supplied weapons and general equipment.

The struggle against the Soviets attracted thousands of volunteers, mainly from Arab countries, and their governments also supplied financial support. Saudi Arabia played a prominent role, and one of the mediators in bringing Saudi money and volunteers to Afghanistan was the then little-known Osama bin Laden.

When the Soviet army eventually withdrew, Sheikh Abdullah Yusuf Azzam, an influential leader and recruiter of “Afghan Arabs”, declared the end of an era in which the political will of world superpowers dominated

Azinovic explains in his book that the triumph in Afghanistan was seen as the first phase of a global fight for the establishment of Islamic states - the international jihad.


The breakout of the Bosnian war in spring 1992 proved timely for many followers of Azzam’s ideas – they used the sufferings of Muslim people there as a pretext to come and fight, said Azinovic.

“Bosnia happened to come about at a propitious time,” said Kohlmann, noting that in 1989, Azzam was killed along with his two sons when his car exploded in Peshawar.

“The leaders of the movement were shattered. The Pakistani government decided that the jihad was over and they didn’t want foreign mujahedin fighters in their country any more, so they kicked them out in 1993,” he said.

Kohlmann explained the series of events in 1992 and 1993 which brought the mujahedin to Bosnia.

“You had a period where the mujahedin are going from their naissance stage in Afghanistan under the watchful eye of Abdullah Azzam and Osama bin Laden to the stage where they are going into the international jihad action, moving beyond the borders of Afghanistan – exactly what Bin Laden had always dreamed of,” he said.

“And so the first place they came to was Bosnia.”

At first, the Sarajevo authorities were unsure why these foreign fighters had come, said Azinovic. Bosnian intelligence and authorities believed that mujahedin were brought into the country against the will of the Sarajevo-based government, and with the assistance of western security agencies.

According to him, some mujahedin were suspected of doing intelligence work, while others were thought to be trying to strengthen Islamic sentiment and ideology in Bosniak-held territories.

Bosniak member of the state presidency, Haris Silajdzic, who was Bosnia’s minister of foreign affairs at the time, said Muslim fighters arrived without an invitation.

“There were 600 to 700 of these people and most of them had arrived with honourable intentions to help Bosnia,” said Silajdzic.

“However, let me make this clear – nobody invited them, they arrived on their own.”

Kohlmann, who has researched the arrival of Afghan veterans in Bosnia, said there are documents from al-Qaeda as well as from Bosnian secret services which point to the same conclusion.

“Generally, at the beginning [the mujahedin] came on their own and have not been drafted – definitely not by somebody from Bosnia,” said Kohlmann.

They were instead spurred into action by international reporting on the Bosnian war, he said.

“They had seen media reports about the situation in Bosnia and they believed that genocide against Muslims was taking place there, so they took that as a reason for a new jihad,” he added.

Yet, in his book, Azinovic notes that international investigations conducted after the war determined that certain Sarajevo officials, as well as some foreign humanitarian organisations, backed the mujahedin’s arrival.

Kohlmann recalled that as the war dragged on, international opinion turned against the Serbs and became largely supportive of the Muslim side. At this time, a recruitment drive began in the Middle East and Afghanistan, and mosque representatives and other recruiters started sending individuals to fight in Bosnia.

“It’s true that not all of these people were brought in with the knowledge of the Bosnian government,” he said.


Azinovic said it is unclear how many foreign Muslim volunteers fought alongside the regular Bosnian army during the war. He cites local estimates which suggest there were around 3,000 of them.

According to Esad Hecimovic, a reporter with Sarajevo-based weekly Dani, there are no reliable records to give an idea of mujahedin numbers.

Records show that some 400 foreign fighters contacted with local authorities at that time, for example to get passports and other personal documents endorsed. There are also documents containing lists of members of the El Mujahed detachment, a more formal unit whose status as part of the Bosnian military remains disputed.

“However, this sort of evidence is unreliable because the majority of these people did not reveal their real identity to military or civil authorities. Therefore we don’t know how many of them were there or who they were,” said Hecimovic.

But while the number of the mujahedin in wartime Bosnia is still a mystery, said Kohlmann, there is very little doubt about their role there – to help counter what began as the superior military might of the Serbs.

“The Serbs had the larger numbers of troops, they had better equipment, they had both the technological advantage and also, in some way, the propaganda advantage,” he said.

“The Bosnian military needed a boogieman, they needed somebody to scare the living daylights out of the Serbs and the Croats; they needed someone to make the Serbs and the Croats rethink their strategy of trying to take parts of Bosnia.”

According to Kohlmann, the mujahedin proved fearless on the battlefield.

“When you are confronting a superior force…you need hardcore, well-trained fighters; guys that aren’t afraid to die in combat; that would run straight into the line of enemy fire; that would dance across the minefield – do things that Bosnian soldiers would never, ever do,” he said.

Yet according to Silajdzic, the Bosnian army did not need the extra manpower supplied by the mujahedin.

“We didn’t need people, we needed weapons. But these people arrived anyway, and they evidently harmed the image of Bosnia,” he said.

The mujahedin, said Kohlmann, soon gained notoriety, “Within just a few days, or few weeks of being in combat in Bosnia they really made a name for themselves. Not as those great conventional fighters, but rather as those who are probably predisposed to commit war crimes on the battlefield.”

As evidence of their brutality, Kohlmann said that when Serb soldiers killed two foreign Muslim fighters during the war, among their belongings, they found photos of mujahedin holding the severed heads of Serbs.

“They were actually taking these heads and they were collecting them in boxes to take back with them,” added Kohlmann.

“This was not even so much a jihad at the beginning as it was a human safari.”


A number of trials in The Hague, including that of Delic, have looked at the extent to which foreign Muslim combatants were subordinate to the Bosnian military command after the creation of the El Mujahed detachment. The Delic indictment lists a number of war crimes attributed to this unit.

When they first arrived, the mujahedin irregulars do not appear to have been under the control of the Bosnian army.

“For the most part, these folks were independent units; they were fighting alongside Bosniaks, in some cases they were fighting alongside Bosnian military units,” said Kohlmann.

“But it would be a stretch to say that in the first year of the war they were closely commanded by anyone in the Bosnian military.”

At first, the foreign fighters established camps in central Bosnia, said Hecimovic, using remote mountain locations away from prying eyes, “It was only some time in April of 1993 that they took over a building in Zenica (Bosnia’s third largest city) and established their main headquarters there, after their armed forces had driven out units of the Croatian Defence Council (HVO).”

In the late summer of 1993, the Bosnian military tried to gain control over the mujahedin by integrating them more closely into the army. They established the El Mujahed detachment, consisting mainly of foreign Muslim fighters, which was intended to serve under the direct command of the Bosnian army's 3rd Corps.

The question of who had de facto control over the El Mujahed detachment is central to the Delic case. Prosecutors maintain the general had authority over them, while the defence argues they reported only to militant Islamist groups, like al-Qaeda, outside the country.

A judgement date for the trial has not yet been set.

TOPICS: Extended News; Foreign Affairs; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: bosnia; islam; wot
"Gee, I don't know how they got here!", Siladzic says, yet even other Bosnian Muslims have accused him of bringing and harboring them all these years.
1 posted on 06/30/2008 11:49:57 PM PDT by Bokababe
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To: joan; Smartass; zagor-te-nej; Lion in Winter; Honorary Serb; jb6; Incorrigible; DTA; vooch; ...

2 posted on 07/01/2008 7:58:28 AM PDT by Bokababe (
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To: Bokababe
According to John schindler in Unholy Terror, Silajdzic on July, 1995, declared an Islamic holy war on SarajevoTV and invited all Islamic states to fight on the side of the Bosnian Muslims.
3 posted on 07/01/2008 8:21:57 AM PDT by F-117A (Mr. Bush, Condi, have someone read UN Resolution 1244 to you!!!)
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To: Bokababe
A Muslim lying to an infidel is not a sin in Islam. This is not being racist or phobic in any way, I'm simply stating Islamic law.

So, in my opinion it's a waste of time to ask a Muslim about the Mujihadin in Bosnia. You'll never get the truth. You see, to them, this isn't about money, oil, or any business, it's about conquest and the spread of Islam. Some do it passively by deception and some do it overtly like the Nazis that murdered over 3,000 innocent lives in NY.

The idiots in NATO will learn that some day. These Nazis have no interest in our rules or global idealism.

There is a ton of footage on the web proving the Nazi Muslims that Germany and NATO trained, armed and supported were in Bosnia.

These were the same Bosnian Nazis that had American servicemen in their cross hairs in Iraq. Bosnia saw thousands of Islamic Nazis come from Algeria, Egypt, Afghanistan, Saudi, Syria, Chechnya, Turkey and Iran.

We knew that a long time ago and yet we still play with the devil.

4 posted on 07/01/2008 8:33:35 AM PDT by SQUID
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A Muslim lying to an infidel is not a sin in Islam

I am convinced that Only Satan himself could have come up with such an evil ideology like Islam through their commands like taqiyya, devshirme, seizing children and converting them, etc etc.

5 posted on 07/01/2008 12:33:59 PM PDT by eleni121 (EN TOUTO NIKA!! +)
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Hi Squid!

Having actually been there and having dealt with captured Mujahideen, you really know who actually brought them to Bosnia. It was the USA and their Saudi allies.

6 posted on 07/01/2008 1:46:48 PM PDT by Diocletian
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To: Bokababe

This may be a “little” off subject, but I met up with a friend that just got back from UN duty in Afghanistan. Among the things we talked about was that a few weeks before coming home to Sweden, his troop were given orders to be on the look out for a Bosnian person on the taliban side. According to my friend Bosnians were rather common and appreciated among the Taliban due to their having recent war experience.

7 posted on 07/01/2008 4:16:18 PM PDT by Jane_N (Truth, like in the eyes of the beholder! Kosovo is Serbia!)
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To: Diocletian
You must have been in the Croatian Army. I was there too but with no Army. I was there with a paper and pen. You are partly correct. It wasn't only the US and Saudi but Germany and GB as well. Those were the major players. Iran was even involved.

I studied Muslim laws and culture and one thing that history has taught me is that Islam has never bought into this global idealism once it reaches a critical mass.

An Islamic Bosnia and Kosovo will be a problem for many more people than just the Serbs. They just don't know that yet.

8 posted on 07/02/2008 6:03:43 AM PDT by SQUID
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To: Bokababe
UN appeals chamber clears Srebrenica Muslim commander

AFP - Friday, July 4THE HAGUE (AFP) - - The former commander of Bosnian Muslim forces in Srebrenica, Naser Oric, was cleared by a UN tribunal Thursday of war crimes against Serbs -- a decision he hailed as vindicating his men.

A hero in the eyes of Bosnian Muslims but vilified by Serbs, Oric was sentenced to two years' imprisonment by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in June 2006 for crimes committed by his forces during Bosnia's 1992-95 war.

"The appeals chamber ... reverses Naser Oric's conviction (and) finds Oric not guilty," judge Wolfgang Schomburg of The Hague-based tribunal said Thursday.

Oric, 41, was initially found guilty of failing to prevent his subordinates killing six Bosnian Serb prisoners and maltreating others held in Srebrenica in 1992 and 1993.

He was freed upon sentencing, having spent more than three years in custody awaiting trial.

Both Oric and the prosecution appealed the sentence: Oric maintaining his innocence and the prosecution objecting that the penalty was too light. It had wanted 18 years.

Smiling broadly on Thursday, Oric told journalists: "Of course, I am very happy".

"We expected this, everyone who followed the trial expected the outcome," he said through his English-speaking legal representative Vasvija Vidovic.

Spending three years in detention was "part of my destiny," said Oric, adding: "Life goes on."

Asked whether the judgment vindicated the Muslim defence of Srebrenica, he said the community had been under siege.

"I don't think the Muslim defenders of Srebrenica committed real crimes. We were just fighting to survive, fighting for our lives."

Schomburg said the prosecution had failed to prove a link between Oric and the crimes committed by his underlings -- essential for a guilty verdict.

While the appeals chamber had no doubt that grave crimes were committed against Serb detainees in Srebrenica, this was not enough for a conviction.

"Criminal proceedings require evidence establishing beyond reasonable doubt that the accused is individually responsible for a crime before a conviction can be entered," said Schomburg.

Serbia condemned the decision.

Oric's acquittal was "another very serious blow to international justice," said a statement from Serbia's council for cooperation with the ICTY.

"Such a verdict could neither contribute to the implementation of justice, nor establishing the truth or reconciliation in the former Yugoslavia, one of the key goals of the ICTY."

Bruno Vekaric, spokesman for the prosecutor for Serbian war crimes, said his office was "deeply convinced" there was enough evidence to prove Oric was responsible for war crimes.

The leader of the main opposition Serb Democratic Party, Mladen Bosic, said the ruling demonstrated the tribunal was "political" rather than "an institution of justice."

Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Milorad Dodik said it was "a mockery of justice."

But families of Muslims killed in Srebrenica welcomed the ruling.

"How could someone ... question the one who defended himself at the site of genocide?" asked Munira Subasic, head of the Mothers of Srebrenica association.

In 1992, Srebrenica was flooded by thousands of Muslim refugees.

It was a UN-protected enclave until July 11, 1995, when it was overrun by Bosnian Serb forces who loaded thousands of men and boys onto trucks, executed an estimated 8,000 and threw their bodies into mass graves.

In Bosnia, popular poems are still chanted in Oric's glory for his defence of Srebrenica.

9 posted on 07/03/2008 1:38:36 PM PDT by Dragonfly
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