Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

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
Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first previous 1-20 ... 41-6061-8081-100101-113 next last
To: F-117A; DTA
Let's try again:

Can you name anything of note directly attributable to Al Quaeda in the Balkans? What attacks have they made against American interests there?

The main thrust of the thesis here is that Al Quaeda is supported by or at least tacitly approved by the Bosnian government and is working hand in hand with the KLA, and that's simply not the case. One could make a more convincing argument that the US government was supporting the IRA based on the same methods and evidences being tried here - and making real world decisions based on misinformation makes for bad policy.

61 posted on 11/03/2001 6:19:31 PM PST by Hoplite
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 50 | View Replies]

To: joan
Unlike the Serbs, however, their government hadn't planned for the wholesale expulsion of the Serb segment of the population from BiH areas - little bit of a difference there, Joan. (Capljina?)

There were and still are radical Islamists in Bosnia, but let me reiterate the point - they weren't ordering the destruction of Orthodox or Catholic churches, or the institution of a system of forced expulsion and concentration camps wherein Croats and Serbs could be seperated from their valuables and lives, with the added 'benefit' that those taking part would gain incentive to never live with their former neighbors again. Take this example from 1994 and compare it to events in Banja Luka - quite a contrast.

Good pull on the RPC brief - maybe someone will read it and figure out that Al Quaeda wasn't driving events nor the potential big benificiary in Bosnia. Sadly, it doesn't address the fact that the reason the Iranians were sending arms was that nobody in the West had the balls to call the UN sanctions regime what it was - an institutionalization of the BSA's advantage in weapons, and do anything about it until 1995 when the nature of the war and the combatants could no longer be denied.

62 posted on 11/03/2001 6:20:17 PM PST by Hoplite
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 52 | View Replies]

To: wonders
Some interdiction? The Taleban, until 9/11 had actually prohibited Opium cultivation in areas under its control (while maintaining large 'contingency' stockpiles, true) and Iran has made quite an effort to counter smugglers.

DOJ Report (although inconclusive as to our issue).


Ten years later many Western criminal intelligence agencies still regard the Balkan route as the most active trafficking conduit. Despite this sustained widespread belief, several factors strongly suggest that illicit opiates from Afghanistan (and Pakistan) are increasingly being routed through what is referred to as the 'northern' route.(source)

Feh, still inconclusive, however. Had enough for tonight. = )

63 posted on 11/03/2001 6:21:49 PM PST by Hoplite
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 55 | View Replies]

To: Balto_Boy
What I'm taking issue with here is the view that Osama Bin Laden is some Deus ex Machina pulling strings in the Balkans. I haven't seen any evidence to support that contention, and, as it's being used to support the view that the BiH is, by association, a nation supporting terrorists, and I'm going to see this thread referenced on another thread as some kind of proof in the future, well here I am.
64 posted on 11/03/2001 6:24:04 PM PST by Hoplite
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 57 | View Replies]

To: Black Jade
Milosevic? As a souce of information?

This is a joke, right?

65 posted on 11/03/2001 6:25:59 PM PST by Hoplite
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 59 | View Replies]

To: Hoplite
This all out attempt to plant this Jihadist fundamentalist Islamic template on Bosnian Muslims just hasn't had much of anything to support it has it? Could it be because it is the wrong template? The template doesn't seem so applicable to those nasty Turks either. I admire your energy on these threads, but for me, the gang has long since ceased to be relevant to anything. Time has passed them by. Their trope has been exposed as totally fictional.
66 posted on 11/03/2001 6:30:02 PM PST by Torie
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 61 | View Replies]

bump - the mainstream is slowly getting it

About time, huh.

67 posted on 11/03/2001 6:45:55 PM PST by Great Dane
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: grania
Think Milosevic could help with this problem?...oh that's right, he's in jail. That was supposed to cause world peace or whatever.

The whatever, is to keep NATO leaders butts out of the courts, if Milosevic is not found guilty, NATO will have a lot to answer for......... therefore they will find him guilty, no matter what.

68 posted on 11/03/2001 7:00:10 PM PST by Great Dane
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 38 | View Replies]

To: Hoplite
and making real world decisions based on misinformation makes for bad policy.

We know that, as misinformation was all we got from officials and media during the attack on Serbia.

69 posted on 11/03/2001 7:15:06 PM PST by Great Dane
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 61 | View Replies]

To: Hoplite; DTA
Let's try again!

"...his organization hasn't been responsible for anything of note in the Balkans..." -- Hoplite

"The bin Ladin network supports terrorists in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Chechnya, Tajikistan, Somalia, Yemen, and now Kosovo."
-- Released by the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, August 21, 1998 (United States State Department - clinton administration)

What ever the Bin Laden network did in Bosnia and Kosovo was severe enough to be included in the list of seven. I guess you consider that to be nothing of note! I suggest you take your problem up with the U.S. State Department.

U.S. State Department document

p.s. Good try at spin, but the fact that I am not privy to State Department sources does not make their clasification invalid.

70 posted on 11/03/2001 7:42:22 PM PST by F-117A
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 61 | View Replies]

To: Torie; Hoplite; vooch; randalcousins; Hamiltonian; Black Jade
The template doesn't seem so applicable to those nasty Turks either.

Turkey Police Arrest Five on Al Qaeda Link

Bin Laden In Turkey Twice

Turkey's Islamist press fumes at US for 'crusade' against Islam

Time is on my side, yes it is. Time, time, time is on my side, yes it is.

71 posted on 11/03/2001 9:50:54 PM PST by Pericles
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 66 | View Replies]

To: Hoplite; F-117A; DTA; vooch
Can you name anything of note directly attributable to Al Quaeda in the Balkans? What attacks have they made against American interests there?

In Bosnia-Herzegovina, The World Bank became the third institution to shut down its office in Bosnia for security reasons. American and British officials shut down their embassies on Wednesday due to ``a credible security threat.''

US Attacks Put Spotlight on Bosnia Muslim Community ``Osama is our brother''

Report: Bin Laden linked to Albania

Bin Laden’s Invisible Network

The Balkan Branches of the Terror Network "in search of blond Moslems"

Terrorists Use Bosnia as Base and Sanctuary

BOSNIA: Terrorists Go Native

Indictment Made in 9/11 Hijack Case ``Martyrs of Bosnia''

72 posted on 11/03/2001 10:09:19 PM PST by Pericles
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 61 | View Replies]

To: Hoplite; F-117A; DTA; vooch
Can you name anything of note directly attributable to Al Quaeda in the Balkans?

Swiss Extradite Suspected Extremist "recruited volunteers to fight in Bosnia"

73 posted on 11/03/2001 10:13:06 PM PST by Pericles
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 61 | View Replies]

To: Hoplite; Pericles; DTA; vooch
Can you name anything of note directly attributable to Al Quaeda in the Balkans?

"For example, one such group about which details have come to light is the Third World Relief Agency (TWRA), a Sudan-based, phoney humanitarian organization which has been a major link in the arms pipeline to Bosnia. ["How Bosnia's Muslims Dodged Arms Embargo: Relief Agency Brokered Aid From Nations, Radical Groups," Washington Post, 9/22/96; see also "Saudis Funded Weapons For Bosnia, Official Says: $300 Million Program Had U.S. 'Stealth Cooperation'," Washington Post, 2/2/96] TWRA is believed to be connected with such fixtures of the Islamic terror network as Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman (the convicted mastermind behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing) and Osama Binladen, a wealthy Saudi emigre believed to bankroll numerous militant groups. [WP, 9/22/96] (Sheik Rahman, a native of Egypt, is currently in prison in the United States; letter bombs addressed to targets in Washington and London, apparently from Alexandria, Egypt, are believed connected with his case. Binladen was a resident in Khartoum, Sudan, until last year; he is now believed to be in Afghanistan, "where he has issued statements calling for attacks on U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf." [WP, 9/22/96])"

Clinton-Approved Iranian Arms Transfers Help Turn Bosnia into Militant Islamic Base

The wealth of evidence pointed out by others makes one wonder if you have turned from being an apologist for clinton to an apologist for Usama Bin Laden.

74 posted on 11/04/2001 5:07:09 AM PST by F-117A
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 49 | View Replies]

To: Hoplite
Yes indeed it was the political goal of the BiH government (Izetbegovic) and the Croats to expel Serbs from all the terroritory they controlled. This was done in Mostar and Sarajevo and all throughout the country side.

Serbs were tortured and raped and killed by the thousands, and put in hundreds of concentration camps, which they list. However, as they are not the PC correct people, crimes against them are ignored.

The Ristovics were mother and father, teachers, and two little boys. Two little boys murdered to scare the Serbs out of Sarajevo. Sick, cruel, but not a war crime because they were Serbs. But now they are dead and the Muslims are probably a-praisin' Allah.

ex-yu press

Murder of the Ristovic Family

Since we are talking about murders, I would like to ask you about the Ristovic family case. When in the summer of 1992 the Ristovic family was murdered, the first news stated that Murat Sabanovic was the murderer...

I remember that well. It was said that Murat Sabanovic murdered the Ristovic family with a group of men from Sandzak. That was even officially stated by the then Minister of Defense, Jerko Doko. Such information was then given to the then Chief of Staff, Sefer Halilovic, and he sent the Military Police to arrest me. Dzevad Topic Topa came to arrest me and I told him that I did not kill the Ristovics and that I would not surrender my weapons. The Ristovics were murdered by the Police. That was a political murder. The goal was to demonstrate to the Serbs that there was no life for them in Sarajevo. Then Topa called Sefer from my office to ask for further orders. Since in the meantime Sefer obtained the true information, he ordered them to get back to their base. That was lucky because I certainly would not have surrendered alive. After that, the Police started spreading rumors that the murderer, Murat Sabanovic, was on the run. I think that Bakir Alispahic was involved in all that. I went to the Police and asked: are you looking for me? They said: "No..." I asked: "Why, then, are you saying that I am on the run?" They said:"Let it be." The formulation that I was on the run in practice meant that any police officer could have shot at me on the street. Therefore, I would be gone, a dead mouth does not speak, and the real murderers of the Ristovics would get away. Fortunately, the truth was soon found out. Five men who killed the Ristovics were arrested, and one of them was a body guard of Bakir Alispahic. Three of them were declared insane, and two were allowed to escape. Therefore, the murderers again got away.

75 posted on 11/04/2001 8:20:41 AM PST by joan
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 62 | View Replies]

To: joan; Hoplite
Actually the family with the little boys was a whole other family besides the Ristovics. The family were the Golubovic's - no such separation of men and boys here: just kill the entire family. Boy, those Muslim police were murdering entire families to scare off the Serbs:

Serb Victims Exhumed In Bosnian War Crimes Trial

KONJIC, May 7, 2000 -- (Reuters) Bosnia's judicial authorities on Saturday exhumed the remains of four members of a Bosnian Serb family as part of the war crimes trial of three Moslem policemen charged with killing them.

The policemen are on trial before the cantonal court in the southern town of Mostar, charged with killing the Golubovic family in July 1992, early in the 1992-95 Bosnia war.

They were charged with the murder of the family in January 1999, but the prosecutor of Bosnia's Moslem-Croat federation got permission from the Hague-based war crimes tribunal to change the charges to those of war crimes killings.

The Golubovic parents, respected high school teachers in Konjic, about 40 km (25 miles) south of Sarajevo, and their two sons of five and seven were taken from their house at night and killed. The three policemen are also from Konjic.

Djordjo Unkovic, 75, the children's grandfather, said he had not learnt where the four were buried until last year, when he placed a monument at the site. "I only want to know the truth" about their murder, he said.

On Saturday the remains of four bodies were removed from the grave for formal identification.

Dusko Tomic, who is representing the Golubovic family at the trial, said the crime was committed for the purpose of ethnically cleansing Konjic. "Politics is responsible for the crime," he told Reuters.

After the murders, not a single Bosnian Serb or Croat wished to remain in Konjic, he said. "They understood the murders as a message that all of them must leave Konjic if they wanted to stay alive," Tomic said.

The three policemen were detained in 1994 after an investigation into the murder of the Golubovic family, but were declared mentally incompetent and released soon afterwards.

Reuf Zaimovic, the president of the multi-ethnic court council that is running the first war crimes trial in Mostar, said he hoped that the trial, which has been monitored by UN war crimes tribunal representatives, would end in June.

"We only want justice to be done and criminals to be punished," said Risto Golubovic, a brother of the murdered Djuro Golubovic.

Formerly multi-ethnic, Bosnia was divided by the 1995 Dayton peace treaty that ended the three-year war there into two entities, a Moslem-Croat federation and a Serb republic, loosely linked by a central government.

The trial continues.

76 posted on 11/04/2001 8:32:21 AM PST by joan
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 75 | View Replies]

To: Hoplite
What I'm taking issue with here is the view that Osama Bin Laden is some Deus ex Machina pulling strings in the Balkans.

So your point is that Bin Laden's network is in the Balkans, but that he's not pulling any strings there and are not part of attacks on Americans? Would you say that of all Bin Laden terrorist cells, including that which has just attacked the U.S.?

77 posted on 11/04/2001 12:52:24 PM PST by Balto_Boy
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 64 | View Replies]

To: Hoplite
Milosevic? As a souce of information? This is a joke, right?

No more so than believing any Bin Laden cell is a reliable source of information.

78 posted on 11/04/2001 12:54:43 PM PST by Balto_Boy
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 65 | View Replies]

To: wonders; joan
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!

I second that - I checked with a buddy who works for EUROPOL. As for the Iranians, they have made a big effort but they are not doing very well. I vaguely remeber that the US was helping them with equipment (NVGs etc) to help govern their borders more efficiently.


79 posted on 11/05/2001 1:42:25 AM PST by Voronin
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 55 | View Replies]

To: Great Dane
The whatever, is to keep NATO leaders butts out of the courts, if Milosevic is not found guilty, NATO will have a lot to answer for......... therefore they will find him guilty, no matter what.

The level of evidence is extremely low, that is why they keep on changing the rules and the standards. Remember, it was in response to the propaganda of the Serbs carrying out 'systematic rape' that rape was for the first time legally regarded as a war crime. It was ok to rape women before (especially if they were white or near anything important), but it changed to get those nazi Serbs.

The plan is really to keep Milosevic in Jail for the rest of his natural life as the judicial processes practiced in the Hauge are extremely elastic with indictment and charges added and removed at will, and each having to be investigated over a long period. The HRW report that accidentally conincided with the new and proposed hauge indictments boasted of using 'new statictical methods' to collate evidence in a comprehensive way that has never been done before: i.e. massage the figures to suit the conclusion.

I wonder what would have happened if the forces in Bosnia had not interdicted the planned attacks on SFOR bases and troops...

I wonder if CdP will bring up the Germand and Bulgarian designed Potkovka (Horseshoe) plan of the JA to ethnically cleanse the Albanians out of Kosovo. She might do if she becomes desperate.


80 posted on 11/05/2001 1:53:09 AM PST by Voronin
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 68 | View Replies]

Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first previous 1-20 ... 41-6061-8081-100101-113 next last

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794 is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson