Skip to comments.Al Qaeda's Balkan Links
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.
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.
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.
The scum is being flushed! CLEAN-UP TIME! Enjoy the ride!
Or maybe it was the Croats, Bosnian Muslims, and Albanians who saw Serbs as threats to their territories' independence.
Croats, Muslims, and Albanians were killing Serbs from the very beginning - even before the beginnings of these wars. Serbs were being discriminated against and kicked out of their jobs in Croatia, for instance.
That is why the first refugees in these wars were Serbs from Croatia. I believe the grand total number of Serbs who left Croatia during the '90's is over 600,000.
It is Croatia's demographic picture which seems to have been most permanently changed in the recent Balkan wars - its population was 12% Serb in 1991, but now is supposedly only 2-3%.
You really believe this?
Au contraire, mon frere.
Strange, but you Serb-haters 'know' more about Serbs than Serbs themselves...
I'm not a Serb hater, Voj, but I know you better than you seem to know your little nationalist self.
(Package check... still there, whew!)
All you know is the 'facts' you've got from the ICG, HRW and CNN.
All I know is that I just had to look up the ICG to see who they were (don't think I've ever seen anything but a tangential reference to them here on F.R.), do view HRW as a respectable source of information, as they still have the only realistic assessment of Yugoslavian civilian casualties during the War and just published a magnum opus on the Kosovo conflict which will be belittled by all the right people:
Yugoslav arrmy chief-of-staff general-collonel Nebojsa Pavkovic in his statement for FoNet news agency on Sunday, labelled the claims made by organization for protecion of human rights Human Rights Watch related to his involvement in crimes against Kosovo Albanians in 1999 as "idiotic statements of certain persons with complexes."
Ah, yes, how predictably sweet - he'll get his chance to defend himself someday too, I hope.
And lastly, I don't have a Television, and CNN is rather more for the short attention span set - sorry, but you're talking smack again.
I suppose I can look on the bright side and rest easy with the knowledge that you're up in Canada where you can't get yourself into much real trouble, and don't worry, I've been enjoying the ride ever since Milo went to the Hague and started throwing temper tantrums - it's really quite fascinating to reflect that he actually wound up in charge of a European Nation.
It really was high time someone dealt with that crap.
(Given 12% of the population of Croatia, 600,000 is more Serbs than were living there to start with, methinks).
Croatia has census information on the web, but it doesn't have an ethnic breakdown. I'll wait for that to come out, rather than relying on 'supposedly', no offense.
Are you saying that Bin Laden was a major force in the Balkans?
Can you name anything of note directly attributable to Al Quaeda in the Balkans?
"The bin Ladin network is multi-national and has established a worldwide presence. Senior figures in the network are also senior leaders in other Islamic terrorist networks, including those designated by the Department of State as foreign terrorist groups, such as the Egyptian al-Gama'At al-Islamiyya and the Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Bin Ladin and his network seek to provoke a war between Islam and the West and the overthrow of existing Muslim governments, such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia."
"The bin Ladin network supports terrorists in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Chechnya, Tajikistan, Somalia, Yemen, and now Kosovo."
You'll have to ask these guys for details. U.S. State Department (1998) All I know is that your ilk were supporting the terrorists shortly thereafter!
You really have guts to support Bin Laden after 911 ! if you provide your real name, you could be listed as Bin Laden chearleader.
The Muslims also helped the Croats ethnically cleanse the Serbs. They admit it:
Six years ago, at the height of the conflict in Bosnia, Ms. Decter asked me to translate testimonies given by a group of Bosnian Muslim prisoners that were brought to Boston (Allston) the previous day. They gave a harrowing account about being kept for months in a dark underground military tunnel in Hercegovina. The detainees described the torture and killings they witnessed, and talked about their transfer to the island of Badia and their consequent release to the USA. When they asked me to translate, the American Jewish Congress was not aware that the prisoners were not held in Serbian but in a Croatian detention camp. When did the Serbs put them in prison? the AJC representative repeatedly asked me. They were in a Croatian camp, I kept repeating. They were tortured by the Croats not Serbs. This came to them as a complete surprise.
To make the situation more ironic, the former Muslim prisoners described in detail how at the beginning of the conflict, they, together with the Croatians from the area, ethnically cleansed and killed all the Serbs from the town of Chaplina and the surrounding villages. They showed no remorse for their actions, but told me the story embittered by the betrayal of their former Croatian allies. The American Jewish Congress office in Boston never released the tapes, that are probably still in their possession. Since the tapes did not show the Serbs as being solely responsible for the civil war in Bosnia, Sheila Decter must have decided that it is better not to ruin her imaginary account of the conflict in Bosnia.
Maybe the majority of Muslims dont want anything to do with Sharia, but there are plenty of radical Islamists among the homegrown Muslims. Alija is a Fundamentalist and so is his party.
3. The Radical Islamic Character of the Sarajevo Regime (page 8): Underlying the Clinton Administration's misguided green light policy is a complete misreading of its main beneficiary, the Bosnian Muslim government of Alija Izetbegovic. Rather than being the tolerant, multiethnic democratic government it pretends to be, there is clear evidence that the ruling circle of Izetbegovic's party, the Party of Democratic Action (SDA), has long been guided by the principles of radical Islam. This Islamist orientation is illustrated by profiles of three important officials, including President Izetbegovic himself; the progressive Islamization of the Bosnian army, including creation of native Bosnian mujahedin units; credible claims that major atrocities against civilians in Sarajevo were staged for propaganda purposes by operatives of the Izetbegovic government; and suppression of enemies, both non-Muslim and Muslim.
Yes, this is true, UP TO A POINT. Some interdiction has occured in Iran, and yes, Iran is no friend of the Taliban. BUT, the "majority" does not now travel through CIS, but rather still makes it across Iran into Turkey, then on through Kosovo and on to Europe. Lesson: Don't ride any Iranian busses!
Best regards, wonders
I see your point. Literally, maybe not, but in influence, definitely.
...the fighting in the Balkans was never about religion as much as it was a simple power struggle cloaked under a religious vestment.
Is that so uncommon?
Serbia has Muslims living peacefully inside its' borders, but they never posed a political threat to Milosevic, ergo, they were allowed to stay - not so the non-Serbs living in Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo who threatened Milosevic's power.
I don't know about Croatia or Bosnia, but the separatists in Kosovo were at it long before Milo had any power to threaten.