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AKI (Italy), January 13, 2006
Croatia: CIA allegedly behind "ethnic cleansing" operation


Zagreb, 12 Jan. (AKI) - The American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) masterminded a military operation carried out near the end of the Balkan wars, in which over 200,000 Serbs were expelled from Croatia and hundreds killed, the Zagreb weekly Globus reported on Thursday. The CIA secretly planned operation 'Storm', which took place in August 1995, at the Sepurine military base, near Adriatic port of Zadar,with the knowledge of then-US president Bill Clinton and top Croation leaders.

Globus said it obtained the information from the defence team of general Ante Gotovina, who was arrested last December on charges of having committed crimes against Serb civilians in the operation "Storm" and is awaiting trial before the UN's Hague war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

According to Globus, George Tenet, who later became CIA chief, had "directly" worked with Gotovina on planning operation "Storm". The paper alleged that Clinton wanted to punish the Serbs, who overran the UN protected Bosnian enclave of Srebrenica in July 1995, by crushing their rebellion in Croatia.

It was later discovered that up to 8,000 Muslims were killed in Srebrenica by Bosnian Serb forces, and several Serbs have been sentenced or are standing trial in the Hague for the massacre. Serbs in Croatia rebelled against the republic’s secession from former Yugoslavia in 1991, and until 'Storm', controlled one-third of Croatia’s territory, on which they proclaimed their own Republic of Srpska Krajina (RS).

Globus said that Tenet and at least 12 American military experts had worked with Gotovina in Sepurine, planning military action that resulted in the fall of Krajina. The Americans had, among other things, jammed Serb communication systems and conducted reconnaissance flights for the Croats, Globus said.

After the mass exodus of Serbs, their property in Krajina was subject to mass destruction and at least 150 civilians were killed. ICTY chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte has charged Gotovina, along with late Croatian president Franjo Tudjman, of a "joint criminal undertaking" aimed at ethnically cleansing the Serbs from Croatia.

After hiding for four years, Gotovina was arrested by Spanish police on the Canary Islands in early December, but pleaded not guilty before the Hague Tribunal. According to Zagreb's media, Gotovina’s lawyers are basing his defence on the fact that the Americans were masterminded the operation and it would be difficult for the Hague tribunal to prove that Washington was a part of a "joint criminal undertaking".

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