The Mujahedin and Islamists in Bosnia

The Mujahedin and Islamists in Bosnia

January 12, 2004

There have for more than a decade been three main radical Islamist mujahedin operating in Bosnia:

  1. The Iranian mujahedin, consistently entirely of Iranian nationals. Their main function has been training, ideological projection and fundraising and financing. This group, which involves Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC: Pasdaran) has stayed away from direct involvement in actual combat operations, even, as much as possible, during the Bosnian civil war which ended in 1995.
  2. The Arab mujahedin, consisting mainly of Arab volunteers, mainly (and spearheaded by) Saudi Arabian nationals, but also including Palestinians, Jordanians, Yemenis and Gulf Arabs. These forces have mainly been engaged in military training of volunteers, including Bosnian Muslims, but have also been engaged in military operations predominantly involving demolition work and diversion operations.
  3. The North African mujahedin, mainly involving Egyptians, Algerians, Moroccans and the like. This group has by far the most direct military experience of the three mujahedin forces, and has been engaged in terrorist operations.

Significantly, the three main groupings of mujahedin are often competitive with each other, but cooperate extensively with each other as well, and also with the local Bosnian Muslim armed groups including the several-thousand strong Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan) who are active through several main centers in Bosnia & Herzegovina. However, the camps of the three mujahedin groups in Bosnia are very separate from each other, and the members do not mix.

The headquarters of the Arab mujahedin in Bosnia changed recently when, in November 2003, moving from Zenica to Konjic, the new headquarters being approximately equidistant between Sarajevo and Mostar (each being about 50km away). Significantly, the Arab mujahedin has emerged as the most militant of the three foreign groups in Bosnia, although there appears to be strong evidence that the more experienced North Africans have been engaged in some of the more serious terrorist actions (including the September 11, 2001, attacks on the US).

Significantly, explosives — bomb components — from Bosnia were tracked leaving the country in the hands of three of the North African mujahedin, and went to Switzerland, where the individuals concerned noted their surveillance and moved into a predominantly Arab refugee area and caused a mob to attack the surveilling Swiss security officers. This enabled to mujahedin to escape. Chemical analysis of terrorist bomb blasts in Casablanca in 2003 showed that the components from Bosnia had been used.

Much of the funding for the mujahedin camps — but mostly for the Arab and North African operations — is funneled through Qatar, according to sources within the groups. Much of it is donated as genuine humanitarian funding, but is diverted so that the vast majority of it goes toward funding of mujahedin. All groups benefit from narcotics trafficking funds, with this traffic largely controlled in this area by Muslims of Bosnian or Serb background, or Albanians. Given that the source of most (if not all) the heroin coming through the pipeline is al-Qaida-related and originating in Afghanistan, and passing through the “business line” of the Albanian/Yugoslav Muslims, it is not surprising that a significant proportion of the revenues from this are also provided to either the mujahedin groups and Islamist groups in Bosnia and Kosovo.

There is a distinct division of labor in the narco-trafficking. The mujahedin groups never engage in commerce themselves, but provide the security and logistics of the narcotics pipeline from the time it reaches Albania and Kosovo through Raška and Bosnia and into Western Europe. Apart from the funding which goes to the mujahedin groups and other Islamist fighting groups in Kosovo, Raška, Macedonia and Bosnia, an extensive contribution is made toward buying influence among local non-Muslim politicians and other foreign officials.

Very well-placed Muslim sources said that the brother of one Federal cabinet minister in Serbia-Montenegro was based in the southern Serbian city of Novi Pazar (literally “New Bazaar”) and acted as the key business head for much of the narcotics traffic. These sources also said that other cabinet officials and lower level officials were also benefiting from pay-offs from the narcotics and prostitution rackets, which also provided the same lines of communications and logistics for the movement of terrorists and weapons.

The sources also said that as many as 40 US citizens, whom they described as “American officials” were also profiting from narcotics and white slave operations conducted by the Albanian and former Yugoslav Muslims. It has already been extensively documented that organized crime groups designated as “Albanian” dominate both the narcotics and prostitution trades in many Western European countries, including the UK. The knowledge that there were “Americans”, presumably of an official nature, actively engaged with some of the Islamist groups has made many of the Muslim sources wary of approaching US intelligence services with information. The sources said that they had provided some information in the past to US officials; some of the information had been acted on, but some had been totally disregarded, leading them to the conclusion that there were some “conflicts of interests”.

One source said that he had volunteered information on the locations of major arms storage facilities, in which Islamists had significant supplies of many types of weapons, including Stinger and SA-7 Strela SAMs, a wide range of anti-tank guided weapons (Soviet/Russian origin), and other systems. He said that the US intelligence official to which he volunteered the information had expressed no interest, despite being told that the weapons were also being sent to Islamist fighters in Iraq. He also said that he had details of the process and activities of Bosnian Muslim groups shipping fighters from Bosnia through Syria into Iraq “to fight Americans”, but even this information elicited no interest.

Meanwhile, the Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan) in Bosnia in December 2003 lost its leader, Camil Višca, when he was arrested. His post has now been taken over by a mujahedin leader known only as “Aziz”.

With regard to the planning now underway for a major attack on a US asset at either Mostar or Sarajevo, the sources said that the attack would be undertaken “in response” to some major US action elsewhere in the world, so that it would appear as a spontaneous reaction to an alleged US “outrage”.

Considerable information of this nature, much of far more detailed and specific, was known to have been provided to US intelligence officials over the past year, and yet US officials in Bosnia, with the exception of the vague and tentative statement by Amb. Clifford Bond, have consistently either played down or denied that a terrorist threat existed in Bosnia. More significantly, Amb. Donald Hays, the US Deputy High Representative, has worked actively to suppress and intimidate the Government of Republica Srpska, threatening to arbitrarily dismiss various members of the Government, including the Prime Minister, unless they complied with his and Ashdown’s demands to fall into line with plans designed to support the radical Islamist SDA party which has continued to have strong ties with al-Qaida and the Iranian mujahedin.

Indeed, because of the constant exposure of the actions of Hays and Ashdown by GIS, the OHR has attempted to make enquiries in Washington to determine the extent to which GIS’ exposure might affect their freedom of action. The OHR has used its virtually unlimited powers, granted by the Dayton Accords, to interfere in all areas of governance in Bosnia Herzegovina, presumably largely on the basis that the White House and the European Union leadership have been too preoccupied with other issues to monitor these activities.