by Milan DAMNJANOVIC
This was Osama bin Laden's "call to jihad" made in February 1998 when this anti-American fetwah was announced. At that point, bin Laden definitely became the most wanted terrorist in the world and that is when the Muslims in Bosnia began, ever so mildly, to renounce their Brother and Helper, a great warrior not only against America but against everyone who does not respect Islam.
The first sign that Osama bin Laden was other than an idol of Bosniaks and all Muslims in the Balkans appeared in the Sarajevo magazine Dani which, following the arrest of Mehrez Adouni, a close associate of Osama bin Laden in possession of a Bosnian passport, at the airport in Istanbul, published that Osama bin Laden himself was also in possession of a Bosnian passport.
According to an article published in Dani on September 24, 1998 (issue 121), panic broke out in the Bosnian government. "In an urgent and secret operation coordinated by Husein Zivalj, the minister of foreign affairs of the Federation Bosnia-Hercegovina, the effort is being made to erase all traces leading to those who issued bin Laden a Bosnian passport in Vienna in 1993."
Now everyone is denying any connection with that shady business, while the world media cite the Dani article as one of the proofs that bin Laden was and still is present in the Balkans. According to CIA analyses, Osama bin Laden is the model of the new Islamic leader who is also attracting young Bosniaks and other Muslims from the Balkans. His influence is apparent among a series of Muslim peoples whom he has influenced with his fetwahs and religious instruction, even when he did not live among them. Bosnia for him had a symbolic significance.
It has become apparent that in the case of Osama bin Laden we are not dealing with state sponsorship of terrorist attacks or with the existence of some sort of Islamic International nor with the leader of some sort of a global organization.
Bin Laden is a "model", a hero to the Islamic world and the Islamic renaissance and only as such he has found a place in this region.
"We have conducted a complete analysis and established that the information that a Bosnia-Hercegovina passport was issued to bin Laden is completely incorrect," announced Mehmed Besic, the minister of foreign affairs of the BH Federation, not long after the suicide plane attacks on the U.S. last week.
Concerns regarding the fact that, if a Bosnian passport was issued to bin Laden, Bosnia-Hercegovina and her citizens may be directly linked to the name of the most wanted terrorist in the world, reports Beta agency citing "information from international circles in BH", resulted in the initiation of Operation Medusa, that is, a contingency plan for possible evacuation of foreign diplomats and their families in the event BH should be endangered.
The fear is all the greater because after recent events everyone is remembering the arrest of terrorist Mehrez Adouni from Tunis at the airport in Istanbul on September 9, 1999.
30 year-old Adouni was on Interpol's "red list". It was also well known that he was a close associate of Osama bin Laden. It was believed that Adouni came to Istanbul to assassinate either Italian foreign minister Lamberto Dini or U.S. deputy state secretary Mark Grossman. It was also suspected that Adouni was responsible for several terrorist attacks in Africa and Europe, especially in Italy where he was arrested and sentenced but managed to escape from prison.
Adouni had a Bosnian passport, which disturbed the Bosniak government in Sarajevo. The minister of internal affairs of the BH Federation confirmed that Adouni was a Bosnian citizen. He lived in Bosnia from May 1993 to May 1995; on the basis of this he requested Bosnian citizenship on December 18, 1997 and received it within five days along with a passport. This caused a chain reaction in Bosnia. The Bosnian government formed a special commission for the purpose of tracking down everyone who received the Bosnian citizenship. The Serb community demanded an emergency session of the Bosnian Parliament and the Croats claimed that mujahideen villages and camps still existed in central Bosnia.
Bin Laden's associate Adouni arrived in Bosnia in 1993 with many other Islamic warriors who established the "El Mujahid" unit. After the war he lived in Zenica and it is believed he left Bosnia in 1997. It is well known that in Bosnia he prevented Serbs from returning to their abandoned homes and that he mistreated Bosnian Muslims with the goal of forcing them to accept in its entirety the religion to which they belonged, toward which they expressed little interest or sense of duty.
Adouni formerly lived in central Bosnia in the village of Bocinja Donja.
A reporter of the "Washington Post" visited the village of Bocinja Donja last year and confirmed that the village had approximately 600 inhabitants, about one hundred of whom were former mujahideen. They married the widows of Muslims and organized a community based on true Muslim and Sharia principles and laws.
Karim Said Atmani, identified as the leader of a group of Algerians accused of terrorism also used to live there. He had very close ties with Ahmed Ressam, a terrorist with a Bosniak passport arrested at the Canada-U.S. border. Ressam was arrested in Seattle when he attempted to transport a large quantity of nitroglycerin and other materials for the manufacture of explosives and bombs from Canada by ferryboat.
The U.S. intelligence agency knew very little about him but the arrest served to alarm France, which was seeking him in connection with ties with a group of Islamic radicals suspected of a series of terrorist attacks on department stores, banks and armored trucks. A connection was established between Ressam and Said Atmani was established; the French police had been unable to find their place of residence for years. Atmani was arrested in Zenica on April 27 of this year on the basis of a French warrant from August of last year.
Another resident of this same village is Palestinian Halid Dik [the Serb version of serbo-croatian language uses phonetic spelling, so that this spelling is a translator's guess], who was arrested in Jordan under suspicion of involvement in a terrorist campaign involving planting of explosives at tourist locations in this country.
Other residents included Abu Mali, the elder of the mujahideen community, also suspected of terrorism and Abu Hamza who demanded $60,000 from an American reporter for an interview. Who knows what Hamza had to say for this amount of money but apparently it was too much even for the "Washington Post". Reporters knew him from an earlier statement, made in 1998 for the Bosnian Muslim magazine Dani, that "Alija Izetbegovic is our president. It will be as he says. If he says that we need to leave this place, we will leave it. If he says to stay, we will stay."
That is, in brief, Osama bin Laden's perception of morality. Strangely, it has found fertile ground in this region as well although Islam has not been practiced as strictly here nor were its adherents particularly pleased to receive the mujahideen as guests. In addition to Bosnia, a former and present sanctuary of mujahideen, U.S. terrorism experts have also warned that bin Laden also has supporters in Kosovo and Metohija and in Albania. They believe that bin Laden has small groups of terrorists in more than 50 countries and that they are also active in Albania. It is believed that bin Laden has "bases" in Tirana and in two smaller cities in Albania and that he supported the violence of the Albanian rebels in Kosovo because his men were among the ranks of the Kosovo Liberation Army.
Bin Laden has maintained a presence in Albania since 1994 when he appeared in Tirana as a rich Saudi nationalist with the wish to establish a humanitarian agency to help Albania. As early as 1998 Albanian authorities discovered an Islamic terrorist cell and arrested two members of bin Laden's group. At that time the CIA confiscated a large volume of documents and computer equipment that led to new terrorist arrests.
The antiterrorist police in Egypt arrested two members of this group, both Egyptian citizens, the same year (1998). Immediately after the terrorist attack on the U.S. the Albanian police chief in Tirana told Agence France Presse "this country is no longer a sanctuary for Islamic terrorists". According to him, the Albanian authorities, in cooperation with the C.I.A., successfully eliminated a terrorist network trying to establish itself in Albania. Despite this, American intelligence officers have determined a connection between last week's terrorist attack and certain groups that can be traced to Albania.
Tropoja (northern Albania), also known as the location of camps for the training of the KLA and the largest "marketplace" for arms in Europe, is mentioned as the center of bin Laden's involvement in the Balkans. From there Saudi and other mujahideen were transferred to Kosovo (according to information from "Jane's International Defence Review"). It is also claimed that the camp in Tropoja is financed by heroin trafficking, which stuns the non-Islamic sense of morality.
"Members of the Kosovo Liberation Army are directly linked, financially and militarily, with Islamic fundamentalists, foreign and domestic intelligence sources have confirmed. Included in this chain, which has been functioning for years, is Ali Ahmeti, the political leader of the Albanian terrorists," the Skopje daily Dnevnik wrote on September 18. They also established ties between the National Liberation Army and bin Laden's terrorists. According to them, there is concrete evidence that Jakup Asipi, an imam from Slupcane, called on the Albanian faithful during prayers to join the jihad. A few years ago he visited Saudi Arabia from where he returned with a group of mujahideen and went with them to Kosovo. Since then every trace of them has vanished.
"We have no information regarding a connection between Ali Ahmeti and bin Laden," said Mark Lattey, a NATO representative, at a press conference held in Skopje on September 17. The only proof of the presence of mujahideen in Aracinovo is a photograph of a man with a beard wearing a traditional Arab head wrap. It is well known that NATO evacuated the terrorists from Aracinovo, doing this without the presence of any representatives of the Macedonian government. Dnevnik cites "well informed Western sources" who claim there were mujahideen at Aracinovo. During this operation former ambassador and head of the OSCE mission Carlo Ungaro was lightly wounded (grazed by a bullet by mistake).
The latest news from the Balkans, after the visit by the director of the CIA to Albania and Bulgaria, suggests that these countries have expelled a few foreign citizens, primarily from the Middle East. Five were expelled from Albania and a man by the name of Ahmet Musa was expelled from Bulgaria. All of them are suspected of being accomplices of Islamic terrorist organizations working in the Balkans under the guise of humanitarian organizations and directly financed by Osama bin Laden.
The Macedonian government is promising that it, too, will soon make a clean sweep.