The Centre for Peace in the Balkans
Bin Laden’s Balkan Connections
Dedicated to all victims of terrorism, including a member of The Centre for Peace in the Balkans who is still listed as missing in the World Trade Centre bombing.
In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on February 2, 1999, CIA Director George Tenet warned of the worldwide threat posed by the Bin Laden network:
"There is not the slightest doubt that Osama Bin Laden, his worldwide allies, and his sympathizers are planning further attacks against us. Despite progress against his networks, Bin Laden´s organization has contacts virtually worldwide, including in the United States. And he has stated unequivocally that all Americans are targets. Bin Laden´s overreaching aim is to get the United States out of the Persian Gulf, but he will strike wherever in the world he thinks we are vulnerable. We are anticipating bombing attempts with conventional explosives, but his operatives are also capable of kidnappings and assassinations. We have noted recent activities similar to what occurred prior to the African embassy bombings, Mr. Chairman, and I must tell you that we are concerned that one or more of Bin Laden´s attacks could occur at any time."
According to the September 15, 2001 issue of the New York Times (U.S. Demands Arab Countries ´Choose Sides´ by Jane Perlez) the United States has issued a communiqué to its embassies around the world "…listing the conditions that nations were expected to meet in order to qualify for membership in the anti-terror coalition." Considering that the US supports countries where many terrorists originate or are trained (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Albania), we are concerned about the fallout should those countries fail to meet the stated US demands.
Furthermore, we must note with tragic irony that the United States trained and financed Islamicist “freedom fighters” during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, to the tune of $10 billion (September 13, 2001, Washington Times). Osama Bin Laden was part and parcel of that military “aid” program.
Yet, it would be willful blindness to suggest that the roots of terror begin and end in Afghanistan or the Middle East. When examining events that have transpired in the Balkans over the past ten years, Osama Bin Laden’s name appears prominently. Bin Laden directly aided the Bosnian Muslims, both financially (weapons procurement) and with training. In addition, that same “aid” was extended to the separatist Albanians of Kosovo and Macedonia. Ironically, the US found Bin Laden and his supporters “convenient” allies when dealing with Bosnian Muslims and Kosovo Albanians, again in another so-called struggle for “freedom”.
Bosnian Muslim weekly “Dani” reported on September 24, 1999, that Osama Bin Laden, the most wanted terrorist in the world, was issued a Bosnia-Herzegovina passport. Bin Laden was issued the Bosnian passport by the Bosnian embassy in Vienna in 1993. However, Bin Laden was not the only one. A number of suspected terrorists have traveled the globe utilizing “legally issued” Bosnia-Herzegovina documents.
According to ‘Dani’, the Bosnian Foreign Ministry was seized by panic when Mehrez Aodouni, another Bosnian passport bearer, was arrested in Istanbul on September 09, 1999. Aodouni was believed to have close ties with Bin Laden. The Party of Democratic Action (SDA) [Bosnia´s main Muslim party led by Bosnian President, Alija Izetbegovic] issued a statement that on September 23, 1999, Audouni obtained the Bosnia-Herzegovina citizenship and a passport because he was a member of the Bosnia-Herzegovina Army.
The Bosnian Muslim daily "Oslobodjenje" published that three men, believed linked to Saudi extremist Osama Bin Laden, were arrested in Sarajevo in July 2001. The three, one of whom was identified as Imad El Misri, were Egyptian nationals. The paper said that two of the suspects were holding Bosnian passports.
The arrest, carried out by police from Bosnia’s Muslim-Croat Federation, was requested by the United States, Oslobodjenje said.
The Dayton peace agreement, that ended Bosnia’s civil war, ordered all foreign soldiers to leave the country, including those who fought alongside the mainly Muslim government army. Many of those who fought in the Bosnian Muslim Army included ranks of Islamicist radicals from the Arab world, Afghanistan, Pakistan and South East Asia. However, an undisclosed number remained, obtaining Bosnian citizenship as members of the army or by marrying Bosnian women.
At the end of the civil war many of these so-called mujahadeen remained on territories controlled by the Bosnian-Croat Federation, instructing Muslim forces in terrorist activities. Those activities came to light on December 18, 1995, with the premature detonation of an automobile bomb in Zenica. It is widely speculated that the bomb was meant for U.S. NATO troops serving in Bosnia-Herzegovina as revenge for the life sentence given to Sheik Omah Abdel Rahman, the brain behind the World Trade Centre bombing in New York.
Also noteworthy is the raid conducted by NATO forces on the training center of the Bosnian Muslim secret police (AID), located in the ski center near Fojnica in February of 1996, and the arrest of several persons for preparing to conduct terrorist actions. Iranian instructors were teaching future terrorists from AID how to disguise bombs as children’s toys, dolls, and plastic ice cream cones.
In its June 26, 1997 Report on the bombing of the Al Khobar building in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the New York Times noted that those arrested confessed to serving with Bosnian Muslims forces. Further, the terrorists also admitted to ties with Osama Bin Laden.
Defence and Foreign Affairs analyst Yossef Bodansky wrote in 1997 that Iran, from its terrorist bases in Bosnia-Herzegovina, planned the assassination of Pope John Paul II. The assassination was planned towards the end of September 1997. A terrorist group consisting of 20 members holding Croatian, Bosnia-Herzegovinian, Tunisian, Algerian and Moroccan passports were to assassinate the Pope during his Bologna visit. The leaders of the group were all former mujahadeen from Bosnia-Herzegovina. Logistical support for the group was secured through a local terrorist network which was closely associated with GIA. Italian authorities discovered the assassination attempt in time and managed to arrest 14 members of the terrorist cell.
Many mujahadeen in Bosnia are now located in what was the pre-war Serbian village of Bocinja Donja. Today, a sign on the road into the town warns visitors to "be afraid of Allah."
The village´s 600 residents include 60 to 100 former mujahadeen, Islamicist guerrillas from the Middle East and elsewhere who came to help Bosnia´s Muslims during the 1992-95 civil war. Since the conflict ended, they and their families have organized a community that stands apart from the rest of Bosnia, whose Muslim majority largely follows a relaxed version of Islam. Bocinja Donja´s affairs, in contrast, are governed by a strict interpretation of Islamic law. Women must wear veils and long black robes; men must have long beards. Smoking and drink is forbidden, as well speaking to visitors.
Washington and its allies have complained periodically about the mujahadeen, who were technically obligated by international treaty to leave the country in 1995. But Western complaints lacked urgency until late 1999, when U.S. law enforcement authorities discovered that a handful of the men who have visited or lived in this area were associated with a suspected terrorist plot to bomb targets in the United States on New Year´s Day.
Among them was Karim Said Atmani, who was identified by authorities as the document forger for a group of Algerians accused of plotting the bombings. He is a former roommate of Ahmet Ressemi, the man arrested at the Canadian-U.S. border in mid-December 1999 with a carload of explosives. Atmani has been a frequent visitor to Bosnia, even after Ressmi´s arrest.
A Bosnian government search of passport and residency records--conducted at the urging of the United States--revealed other former mujahadeen who are linked to the same Algerian group or to other suspected terrorist groups and who have lived in this area 60 miles north of Sarajevo, the capital, in the past few years.
One man, a Palestinian named Khalil Deek, was arrested in Jordan in late December 1999 on suspicion of involvement in a plot to blow up tourist sites; a second man with Bosnian citizenship, Hamid Aich, lived in Canada at the same time as Atmani and worked for a charity associated with Osama Bin Laden.
A third suspect, an Algerian named Abu Mali who was regarded as a community leader in Bocinja, was asked to leave the country with his family in spring of 1999 after Washington accumulated evidence that he worked for a terrorist organization. Mehrez Amdouni, another former resident, was arrested by Turkish police in September of 1999 in Istanbul, where he arrived with a Bosnian passport. Amdouni was charged with counterfeiting and possessing stolen goods.
The Centre for Peace in the Balkans wrote in Spring of 2000:
The December 14, 1999, arrest of Algerian national Ahmet Ressemi at a U.S.-Canada border crossing in British Columbia – he was in a car full of nitroglycerin and bomb-making materials – was headline news in North America. Many theorized that Ressemi planned to blow up a major structure in the U.S. to start the new millenium.
The theorists could have saved themselves some time by taking a closer look at Ressemi’s past ties, especially those with terrorists trained in Bosnia-Herzegovina, where Ressemi fought as a mujahadeen.
It has been confirmed that Ahmet Ressemi had ties with Said Atmani, another terrorist who fought in the "El Mujahadeen" unit in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Canadian authorities deported Atmani back to Bosnia-Herzegovina on October 18, 1998, supposedly without knowing of his alleged participation in terrorist activities through Europe.
The NY Times, in it´s "Magazine" edition of February 6, 2000 published that: "Last year, sources in Jordan say, the Mukhabarat, the intelligence service, alerted the C.I.A. to at least three plots by Bosnia-based Islamic terrorists to attack U.S. targets in Europe."
Recently, Kenneth Katzman, of the Library of Congress’ Congressional Research Service, released an updated report on terrorism. That report identified cells of the Bin Laden Al-Quaida Network in the Middle East, Africa, Bosnia, and Albania.
Albania/ Kosovo Albanians
Osama Bin Laden’s activities in Albania are well known and documented. As a matter of fact at one point the presence of his network in that country was so powerful that US Defence Secretary William Cohen cancelled a scheduled visit July 1999 for fear of being assassinated.
It is believed that Bin Laden solidified his organization in Albania in 1994 with the help of then premier Sali Berisha. Albania’s ties to the Islamicist terrorist blossomed during Berisha´s rule when the main Kosovo Albanian KLA training base was on Berisha´s property in northern Albania.
Fundamentalists were well established in Albania, despite several raids by the CIA and Albanian security forces that seized five key members of Islamic Jihad and other Middle Eastern groups in summer of 1998.
Around that time, a joint CIA-Albanian intelligence operation has reported mujahadeen units from at least half a dozen Middle East countries streaming across the border into Kosovo from bases in Albania. The American request came at a meeting of US envoys with the leaders of the ethnic-Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army at their headquarters in Geneva.
A few years ago, Albanian authorities working with the Central Intelligence Agency claimed to have uncovered a terrorist network operated by Osama Bin Laden. The network is said to have been set up to use Albania, a nominally Muslim country, as a springboard for operations in Europe.
Fatos Klosi, the head of Shik, the Albanian intelligence service, said that Bin Laden had visited Albania himself.
Bin Laden’s organization was one of several fundamentalist groups that had sent units to fight in Kosovo, the neighboring province of Serbia. Apparent confirmation of Bin Laden´s activities came when Claude Kader, 27, a French national and self-confessed member of Bin Laden´s Albanian network, was jailed for the murder of a local translator. He claimed during his trial that he had visited Albania to recruit and arm fighters for Kosovo, and that four of his associates were still at large.
Bin Laden is believed to have established an operation in Albania in 1994 after telling the government that he was head of a wealthy Saudi humanitarian agency keen to help Europe´s poorest nation.
In April 2000 the Yugoslav news agency Tanjug said the "notorious international terrorist" and "Islamic fanatic" arrived in Kosovo from Albania.
"Until recently, Bin Laden was training a group of almost 500 mujahadeen [Muslim fighters] from Arab countries around the Albanian towns of Podgrade and Korce for terrorist actions in Kosovo."
The report added that an eventual 2000-strong group of "extremists" planned "to set off a new wave of violence in southern Serbia (the area linked by the towns Presevo, Bujanovac, Medvedja)."
In March of 2000, the BBC reported that KFOR raided a Saudi charity operating in Kosovo after being tipped off by U.S. officials that it may have links to Bin Laden. The Islamic relief organization strongly denied the allegations.
Before the NATO air campaign, the Yugoslav government said on its website that KLA fighters from Kosovo had been attending terrorist training camps in Arab states, "financed by some renegade Saudi businessmen" - an apparent reference to Bin Laden.
In May of 1999, the Washington Times reported that the KLA had borrowed money "from known terrorists like Osama Bin Laden."
Two months earlier, Israeli investigative journalist Steve Rodan wrote that, according to European security and diplomatic sources, "Kosovo has become the latest and most significant arena for radical Islamic states and groups that seek to widen their influence in Europe."
The danger exhibited by Macedonia was foreseen by Henry Kissinger in his Washington Post article of February 22, 1999 ("No U.S. Ground Forces for Kosovo: Leadership Doesn´t Mean That We Must Do Everything for Ourselves"):
"Ironically, the projected peace agreement increases the likelihood of the various possible escalations sketched by the president as justifications for a U.S. deployment. An independent Albanian Kosovo surely would seek to incorporate the neighboring Albanian minorities -- mostly in Macedonia -- and perhaps even Albania itself. And a Macedonian conflict would land us precisely back in the Balkan wars of earlier in this century. Will Kosovo then become the premise for a NATO move into Macedonia, just as the deployment in Bosnia is invoked as justification for the move into Kosovo? Is NATO to be the home for a whole series of Balkan NATO protectorates?"
The connection between Macedonia, its conflict and Bin Laden’s involvement can be gleaned from a Washington Times editorial on June 22, 2001, ("Bin Laden´s new special envoys"):
"[The NLA] is fighting to keep control over the region’s drug trafficking, which has grown into a large, lucrative enterprise since the Kosovo war. In addition to drug money, the NLA also has another prominent venture capitalist: Osama Bin Laden.
The Muslim terrorist leader, according to a document obtained by The Washington Times and written by the chief commander of the Macedonian Security Forces, puts out the front money for the rebel group through a representative in Macedonia: "This person is representative of Osama Bin Laden, who is the main financial supporter of the National Liberation Army, where to date he has paid $6 to $7 million for the needs of the National Liberation Army.”
It is important to point out that in Macedonia, local drug-trafficking is now out of control. Osama Bin Laden is realizing that this growing reality of Albanian narco-terrorism could lead to the emergence of a situation in which his venture may become powerful enough to control one or more states in the region. In practical terms, this will involve either Albania or Macedonia, or both. Politically, this is now being done by channeling profits from narco-terrorism into local governments and political parties.
Strategically, Macedonia is very important to Osama Bin Laden and his followers from another perspective as well. It closes the loop between East and West, and more particularly it gives him an open hand when it comes to control of the new pipeline that is planned to stretch from Bulgaria to Albania ports. This way Osama Bin Laden would have the ability to control the distribution of oil to the United States.
This article has attempted to deliver the reader with the evidence of the influence gained by Osama Bin Laden in the Balkans. The Centre for Peace in the Balkans, throughout its existence, has warned that tacit cooperation with terrorists like Osama Bin Laden would undoubtedly result in catastrophic consequences around the globe. Turning a blind-eye while Bosnian Muslims and Albanians in Yugoslavia and Macedonia actively worked with Islamicist terrorist elements, right under the nose of NATO, was bound to destabilize other parts of the world. Strengthened and emboldened by success in the Balkans, these terrorists have now gone on to fulfill what in essence was the Crown Jewel of terror, terror over the whole of North America. In fact, it is certain that the New York and Washington catastrophes served as a recruitment advertisement for the movement.
Yesterday it was the Balkans, today the USA, tomorrow it’s anybody’s guess. After the events of September 11th, it appears that our imagination is too conservative for the minds of terror. The United States and NATO countries found these terrorist elements “useful” in the service of past policy objectives, whether it was Afghanistan, Bosnia or Kosovo. The real question now is who was using whom? Radical terrorists, whether Islamicist or not, are tigers which cannot be ridden. The foolishness of how any Pentagon, CIA or State Department analyst could have viewed otherwise became horrifically apparent on September 11, 2001.
Balkan wars and terrorist ties
Director of the U.S. Congress' Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional warfare: "Some Call It Peace"
NATO Probes Claims that Bin Laden is in Kosovo
Persecution Watch : Kosovo
Defang the KLA
Destabilizing the Balkans: US & Albanian Defense Cooperation in the 1990s
Bin Laden in Kosovo
Bosnia Arrests Three Suspected Bin Laden´s Associates
A Bosnian Village's Terrorist Ties; Links to U.S. Bomb Plot Arouse Concern About Enclave of Islamic Guerrillas
Bin Laden opens European terror base in Albania
US tackles Islamic militancy in Kosovo
US alarmed as Mujahidin join Kosovo rebels