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Al Qaeda's Balkan Links
Wall Street Journal Europe | November 1, 2001 | Marcia Christoff Kurop

Posted on 11/01/2001 3:53:17 AM PST by Stand Watch Listen

The Balkans' uncharacteristically silent exit from the world stage as the most prominent international hot spot of the last decade belies its status as a major recruiting and training center of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network. By feeding off the region's impoverished republics and taking root in the unsettled diplomatic aftermath of the Bosnia and Kosovo conflicts, al Qaeda, along with Iranian Revolutionary Guard-sponsored terrorists, have burrowed their way into Europe's backyard.

For the past 10 years, the most senior leaders of al Qaeda have visited the Balkans, including bin Laden himself on three occasions between 1994 and 1996. The Egyptian surgeon turned terrorist leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri has operated terrorist training camps, weapons of mass destruction factories and money-laundering and drug-trading networks throughout Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Turkey and Bosnia. This has gone on for a decade. Many recruits to the Balkan wars came originally from Chechnya, a jihad in which Al Qaeda has also played a part.

These activities have been exhaustively researched by Yossef Bodansky, the former director of the U.S. House of Representatives' Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare. The February testimony of an Islamist ringleader associated with the East Africa bombings have also helped throw light on these actions.

They have however been disguised under the cover of dozens of "humanitarian" agencies spread throughout Bosnia, Kosovo and Albania. Funding has come from now-defunct banks such as the Albanian-Arab Islamic Bank and from bin Laden's so-called Advisory and Reformation Committee. One of his largest Islamist front agencies, it was established in London in 1994.

Narco-Jihad Culture

The overnight rise of heroin trafficking through Kosovo -- now the most important Balkan route between Southeast Asia and Europe after Turkey -- helped also to fund terrorist activity directly associated with al Qaeda and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Opium poppies, which barely existed in the Balkans before 1995, have become the No. 1 drug cultivated in the Balkans after marijuana. Operatives of two al Qaeda-sponsored Islamist cells who were arrested in Bosnia on Oct. 23 were linked to the heroin trade, underscoring the narco-jihad culture of today's post-war Balkans.

These drug rings in turn form part of an estimated $8 billion a year Taliban annual income from global drug trafficking, predominantly in heroin. According to Mr. Bodansky, the terrorism expert, bin Laden administers much of that trade through Russian mafia groups for a commission of 10% to 15% -- or around $1 billion annually.

The settling of Afghan-trained mujahideen in the Balkans began around 1992, when recruits were brought into Bosnia by the ruling Islamic party of Bosnia, the Party of Democratic Action, from Chechnya, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan, as well as Italy, Germany and Turkey. They were all given journalists' credentials to avoid explicit detection by the West. Others were married immediately to Bosnian Muslim women and incorporated into regular army ranks.

Intelligence services of the Nordic-Polish SFOR (previously IFOR) sector alerted the U.S. of their presence in 1992 while the number of mujahideen operating in Bosnia alone continued to grow from a few hundred to around 6,000 in 1995. Though the Clinton administration had been briefed extensively by the State Department in 1993 on the growing Islamist threat in former Yugoslavia, little was done to follow through.

The Bosnian Embassy in Vienna issued a passport to bin Laden in 1993, according to various reports in the Yugoslav press at the time. The reports add that bin Laden then visited a terrorist camp in Zenica, Bosnia in 1994. The Bosnian government denies all of this, but admits that some passport records have been lost. Around that time, bin Laden directed al Qaeda "senior commanders" to incorporate the Balkans into an complete southeastern approach to Europe, an area stretching from the Caucasus to Italy. Al Zawahiri, the Egyptian surgeon reputed to be the second in command of the entire al Qaeda network, headed up this southeastern frontline.

By 1994, major Balkan terrorist training camps included Zenica, and Malisevo and Mitrovica in Kosovo. Elaborate command-and-control centers were further established in Croatia, and Tetovo, Macedonia as well as around Sofia, Bulgaria, according to the U.S. Congress's task force on terrorism. In Albania, the main training camp included even the property of former Albanian premier Sali Berisha in Tropje, Albania, who was then very close to the Kosovo Liberation Army.

Not even stalwart NATO ally Turkey escaped the network. Areas beyond government control were also visited by bin Laden in 1996 according to London-based Jane's Intelligence Review. The government has been battling two terrorist groups: Jund al Islam, whose assassinated Syrian leader was one of bin Laden's closets confidantes, and the Kurdish PKK, whose leader, Abdullah Ocalan, merged his group's activities with those of Iran's Hezbollah in 1998.

Furthermore, as revealed in the February 2001 East Africa bombing trial testimony of Jamal al Fadl -- an al Qaeda operative in charge of weapons development in Sudan -- uranium used in "dirty bombs" that release lethal radioactive material, had been tested in 1994 by members of the Sudan-based Islamic National Front in the town of Hilat Koko, in Turkish-held northern Cyprus. Cyprus, both its north and southern sides, has also become a center for offshore money laundering by Arab banks fronting al Qaeda funds into the Balkans. The CIA puts al Qaeda's specific Balkan-directed funds -- those tied to the "humanitarian" agencies and local banks and not explicitly counting the significant drug profits added to that -- at around $500 million to $700 million between 1992 and 1998.

So where was the U.S. in all this? It was not until 1995 that the Clinton administration was forced to start pursuing the Islamist network in the Balkans. Not quite a month after the Dayton accords had been signed in November 1995, an influx of Iranian arms came into Bosnia with the apparent tacit approval of the administration, in violation of U.N. sanctions. While publicly pressing Bosnian President Alia Izebegovic to purge remaining Islamist elements, the administration was loath to confront Sarajevo and Tehran over their presence.

Instead, Islamist groups went quietly underground as the windfall of weapons landed in their hands. They later joined up with a new Islamist center in Sofia established as a kind of rear guard by the al Zawahiri. Following the Zagreb arrest and extradition of renowned Egyptian militant Faud Qassim, an al Zawahiri favorite, the Sofia-based militants planned the deployment in Bosnia of terrorists capable of planning and leading possible major terrorist strikes against U.S. and SFOR facilities, according to al Fadl's testimony to the House Task Force on Terrorism.

Islamist infiltration of the Kosovo Liberation Army advanced, meanwhile. Bin Laden is said to have visited Albania in 1996 and 1997, according to the murder-trial testimony of an Algerian-born French national, Claude Kader, himself an Afghanistan-trained mujahideen fronting at the Albanian-Arab Islamic Bank. He recruited some Albanians to fight with the KLA in Kosovo, according to the Paris-based Observatoire Geopolitique des Drogues.

Controversial Relationship

By early 1998 the U.S. had already entered into its controversial relationship with the KLA to help fight off Serbian oppression of that province. While in February the U.S. gave into KLA demands to remove it from the State Department's terrorism list, the gesture amounted to little. That summer the CIA and CIA-modernized Albanian intelligence (SHIK) were engaged in one of the largest seizures of Islamic Jihad cells operating in Kosovo.

Fearing terrorist reprisal from al Qaeda, the U.S. temporarily closed its embassy in Tirana and a trip to Albania by then Defense Secretary William Cohen was canceled out of fear of an assassination attempt. Meanwhile, Albanian separatism in Kosovo and Metohija was formally characterized as a "jihad" in October 1998 at an annual international Islamic conference in Pakistan.

Nonetheless, the 25,000 strong KLA continued to receive official NATO/U.S. arms and training support and, at the talks in Rambouillet, France, then Secretary of State Madeleine Albright shook hands with "freedom fighter" Hashim Thaci, a KLA leader. As this was taking place, Europol (the European Police Organization based in The Hague) was preparing a scathing report on the connection between the KLA and international drug gangs. Even Robert Gelbard, America's special envoy to Bosnia, officially described the KLA as Islamic terrorists.

With the future status of Kosovo still in question, the only real development that may be said to be taking place there is the rise of Wahhabi Islam -- the puritanical Saudi variety favored by bin Laden -- and the fastest growing variety of Islam in the Balkans. Today, in general, the Balkans are left without the money, political resources, or institutional strength to fight a war on terrorism. And that, for the Balkan Islamists, is a Godsend.

TOPICS: Extended News; Foreign Affairs; Front Page News; News/Current Events; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: alqaedabalkans; balkans; kla; narcoterrorism; zawahiri
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To: bluester
The major bummer about the whole thing is that there was a pretty good chance that there wouldn't have been a war in Bosnia in the first place if outside powers hadn't had their finger in the pie (USA-Izetbegovic-Lisbon Agreement (amongst others)). If you look at balkan history, they certainly had their own reasons for a big punch up, but on every occaison, the major powers have chosen sides and manipulated the situation to their own benefit - in one way, it's proof that history does repeat itself - the more people that get involved, the more likely the sh*t will hit the fan. Very depressing really.


101 posted on 11/05/2001 2:24:57 PM PST by Voronin
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Comment #102 Removed by Moderator

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Comment #104 Removed by Moderator

To: ratcat
In 1992, the Bosnian government asked the JNA, that is, the Federal Yugoslav Army, to protect its citizens against Serbian Paramilitaries which were, in effect, invading Bosnia from Serbia.

The JNA offered no protection to Bosnians, and instead worked hand in hand with the Paramilitaries.

Bosnia then applied to the international community to allow it to buy arms to defend itself, having been recognized as a legitimate country by the international community in December of 1992.

The international community instead decreed that the arms embargo, which, in effect locked in the overwhelming superiority of weapons in the Serb's favor, should remain in effect.

The Bosnians, therefore, turned to the only people who would offer them succor, being the Iranians and other Muslim countries.

Don't be surprised that the Bosnians didn't refuse the only hand that offered them the chance of salvation when the rest of the world turned it's back on their being slaughtered.

As to the KLA, the Al Quaeda link isn't there, or has yet to be proven. The Serb Nationalist side would have us believe that the two worked hand in hand, but lack the proof to back up their assertions, and your DEA source speaks to the nature of the KLA's drug running operation and their ruthlessness, but doesn't address any factual linkage between themselves and Al Quaeda.

105 posted on 02/05/2002 12:23:09 PM PST by Hoplite
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Bosnia Raid Yields al-Qaida Donor List
Miami Herald Wed, Feb. 19, 2003 JOHN SOLOMON

WASHINGTON - U.S. authorities recovered a list of 20 financiers they suspect funneled money to Osama bin Laden and others extremist Muslim causes among a cache of documents that provide insight into the financing of terrorism, an unsealed court record shows.

The seized documents are a "treasure trove" and among other things indicate al-Qaida military leaders were at times paid salaries from Muslim charity proceeds and purchased weapons with money from charity leaders, prosecutors said in the once-secret court filing.

Other evidence seized in March 2002 from the Bosnian offices of the Benevolence International Foundation, an Illinois-based Muslim charity, includes handwritten correspondence to and from bin Laden and documents detailing the origins, growth and expansion of his al-Qaida network in the 1980s and 1990s, the filing said.

Though the original documents remain secret, the prosecutor described their contents and English translations for the first time in the filing unsealed this month in the case of the head of the Muslim foundation who reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors in Chicago.

Enaam Arnaout pleaded guilty last week to illegally buying boots and uniforms for fighting forces in Bosnia and Chechnya under a deal in which prosecutors, in exchange for his cooperation, dropped charges that he aided bin Laden.

In a pretrial document known as a "proffer," prosecutors said handwritten documents scanned into computer formats in the Bosnia office included a file titled "Osama's history" that contained "a handwritten draft list of people referred to within al-Qaida as the 'Golden Chain,' wealthy donors to mujahedeen efforts."

"The list contained 20 names, and after each name a parenthetical indicating the person who received the money from the specified donor," the proffer said.

The list suggested at least seven of the donors gave directly to bin Laden, and six of the others were listed as giving to the founder of a Muslim charity, the court document said.

U.S. officials declined to identify any of the 20 donors, but said the list is one of several pieces of evidence the government has obtained since the war on terror began after Sept. 11 that identifies spigots of money that have financed bin Laden and Middle Eastern and Asian terrorists over the past two decades.

U.S. officials estimate they have frozen roughly $124.5 million in financial assets belonging to terrorist groups, including al-Qaida, since the Sept. 11 attacks.

One letter found in the files instructed a charity leader to pay a monthly salary of 4,500 Saudi riyals each - about $1,200 - to two of al-Qaida's top military leaders. The letter establishes "that military commanders were salaried by the support organizations," the prosecutors said in the proffer.

Other documents discuss the purchases of weapons such as missiles, dynamite, fuses, rocket-propelled grenades and bayonets, the proffer stated.

The documents found in the charity's Bosnian office also chronicle the evolution of bin Laden's movement from support of the once U.S.-based muhajedeen warriors fighting Soviet occupation of Afghanistan to a global terror network that posed threats to the United States and rest of the Western world.

In one letter, an unidentified author writes to bin Laden asking for help for followers in the African country of Eritrea. The letter identifies as its top goal "facilitating the travel of the youth to the field of Jihad so they can benefit from the training possibilities, by providing them with tickets and entry visas," according to the government translation.

Another letter from bin Laden "explains the time has come for an attack on the Russians," the court documents said. Other correspondence describe money transfers and weapons purchases showing that al-Qaida often facilitates such transactions with a simple letter from bin Laden or a top lieutenant asking the recipient to provide money to the bearer of the letter.

For instance, one letter instructed the recipient to send 400,000 rupees of Pakistani money - about $7,200 - "to the owner of the weapon for delivery in Parachinar ... for security reasons," the proffer said.

Another used an alias to refer to bin Laden and his request that a charity leader "give 500,000 rupees to the man bearing the letter," the proffer said. That's about $9,000.

While most of the documents were a decade or more older, they provided U.S. authorities with significant insight into al-Qaida and helped confirm many suspicions about its finances, structure and evolution, U.S. officials said. Some details in the documents "were not known to the public," the proffer said.

Handwritten notes detail the original formation of al-Qaida, including minutes of an Aug. 11, 1988, meeting bin Laden held to discuss "the establishment of a new military group." Those notes record bin Laden's own statements on the efforts to recruit members from Saudi Arabia for his network and to raise money.

The notes quote bin Laden as saying "we took very huge gains from the country's people in Saudi. We were able to give political power to the mujahedeen, gathering donations in very large amounts, restoring power," the court document states.
106 posted on 10/07/2003 5:11:16 AM PDT by anglian
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107 posted on 10/07/2003 5:15:16 AM PDT by anglian
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To: RussianConservative

Free Milosevich!
108 posted on 11/10/2003 2:03:46 PM PST by Pubbie (Vote "No" On Recall, "Yes" On Bustamante)
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To: Stand Watch Listen
November 1, 2001>>>

Old news. But fishwrap is still read meat for gibbering racists.
109 posted on 11/10/2003 3:22:16 PM PST by Ronly Bonly Jones
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To: Pubbie
Free Milosevic! Collect all seven! Trade him with your friends!
110 posted on 11/10/2003 3:22:58 PM PST by Ronly Bonly Jones
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To: Pubbie
Free Milosevic! Collect all seven! Trade him with your friends!
111 posted on 11/10/2003 3:23:01 PM PST by Ronly Bonly Jones
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To: Stand Watch Listen
Without a doubt Clinton was bombing the wrong people in the Balkans.

After all,it wasn't the Serbs who flew the planes on 9-11,it was the KLA's bosom buddies in Al Qaeda.

112 posted on 11/10/2003 4:30:55 PM PST by gitmogrunt (Dubya ain't tough enough on the religion of peace)
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To: Calpernia; Velveeta; Revel

Oldie but goodie, 2001, OBL, alQaeda

clinton goofed, i think.

113 posted on 12/14/2004 3:20:03 AM PST by nw_arizona_granny (Today, please pray for God's miracle, we are not going to make it without him.)
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