used without permission, for "fair use" only
Reviving The Patriotic League
by Suzana MIJATOVIC and Senad AVDIC
Slobodna Bosna, Sarajevo, Federation Bosnia-Hercegovina, B-H, March 27, 2003
The celebration of the 9-year anniversary of the creation of the Patriotic League, held in the village of Mehurici, in central Bosnia, on 8 February 2001, strongly resembled the league's first assembly in 1992. In February of 1992, just before the war started in Bosnia-Hercegovina, the [Bosnian Muslim] Party of Democratic Action (SDA) organized in Mehurici a gathering of Bosnian patriots who were ready and willing to help organize people to resist the coming aggression. The meeting organized two years ago brought together the remaining members of the Patriotic League from all over Bosnia, and also selected guests from the political, military, security, and intelligence structures of the SDA. The official host of the secret meeting, held in a primary school, was Zihnija Aganovic, the former president of the Travnik Municipal Assembly, in whose family house, close to the school, the Patriotic League was created. The 9th anniversary, however, was only a formality; the real reason behind the meeting was somewhat different.
War Is Not Over!
It is no coincidence that the meeting was held in secrecy. At that time the SDA, for the first time in 10 years, was in opposition at the state and federal level and in most of the cantons, apart from Srednjobosanski and Hercegovacko-neretvanski. At that time Alliance for Change took over the reins of power at the state and federal level. Consequently, the meeting in Mehurici took place so that the SDA could regroup and assess the possibilities for action in the new circumstances. Besides the desire to keep their positions in the most important institutions of the government - the military, police, and intelligence agencies - the real goal of the meeting was the creation of a new paramilitary organization, whose core was to be made up of mostly retired generals of the Bosnian Army and their political sympathizers.
The meeting, attended by around 100 guests, was opened by Gen. Nedzad Ajnadzic. Ajnadzic was an interesting choice, as at the time of the Patriotic League's creation in 1992, he was an officer in the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) and joined the Bosnian Army only after the JNA started bombing Sarajevo and other cities in Bosnia The other attendees included former deputy minister of defense Sakib Mahmuljin, and Generals Sefer Halilovic, Halil Brzina, and Vehid Karavelic. The first commander of the Fifth Corps Hajrudin Osmanagic arrived from Unsko-sanski canton. Osmanagic currently resides in Velika Kladusa. Zenicko-dobojski canton was represented by Ibro Delibacis and sheik Zuhdija Karic and hajji Midhat Puric. Puric is known to the public as one of the organizers of the kidnapping of Velimir Mandic, the brother of Momcilo Mandic. Puric was arrested by the Federation BH Police, tried and convicted for abduction and extortion of $250,000, the ransom kidnappers demanded for Mandic's release. Karim Lucarevic, wartime commander of the Military Police of Bosnia-Hercegovina and a post-war businessman also attended the meeting in Mehurici. According to several meeting participants, Lucarevic was brought to the remote village near Travnik by Sarajevo restaurateur Bilal Basovic. One of the founders of the Patriotic League, later one of top officers of the Army of Bosnia-Hercegovina, General Sulejman Vranj and Army-General Kadir Jusic also attended the meeting. The former governor of Tuzlanski canton, Izet Hadzic was also there. Police and intelligence services were represented by the former minister of the Federation BH Police Avdo Hebib and one of the directors of the Federation BH Intelligence Service (FOSS), Osman Jasarevic.
How To Fool SFOR?
Most of the participants at the 2001 meeting agreed not only that they refused to accept the Dayton Agreement, but also that the situation in Bosnia could only be resolved by military means. They agreed that Bosniaks must be prepared for that eventuality. As some of military-political "strategists" emphasized that only 10 percent of Bosniaks would survive the next war if they were not prepared for it!? It was also agreed that the key role in military preparations must be taken by the reformed Patriotic League and the league would act in parallel with the existing forces of the Federation BH Army. Several army generals asserted that if there were new violent clashes the Federation BH Army would be blocked and pacified by SFOR, [the NATO-led force in Bosnia], which controls most of the arms and ammunition. In such a situation most of the military operations would be undertaken by the equipped and trained forces of the Patriotic League. That poses another question. What arms and ammunition did the participants count on when they made future war plans? Were the arsenals discovered last year in Mostar, Bihac, and Gorazde purposefully hidden by (or given to) the trustworthy Bosniak patriots? At the meeting in Mehurici, one of the Bosnian army generals said that there were illegal warehouses and safe-houses that contain enough weapons and ammunition to set Bosnia "free from the sea to the river Drina."
It was also agreed at the meeting that the organization, in the future, would act through its political and military wings. Sefer Halilovic, a retired Bosnian army general, was elected the head of the military wing. Halilovic accepted the duty with two conditions: that the league be organized along military lines and that the organization be kept secret. It's worth remembering that, at that moment, his party, the Bosnia-Hercegovina Patriotic Party (BPS), had put him forward as a candidate for the post of interior minister of the Federation BH, although this was eventually overruled by the Office of the High Representative (OHR) and SFOR. Halilovic was given a cushier role as the refugees minister in the government. Fatmir Alispahic, a revolutionary and writer, was chosen as the political leader of the league. The original plan was to give this position to Mirnes Ajanovic, the leader of the Bosnian Party (BOSS), but Ajanovic refused the offer supporting the candidacy of his speechwriter, Alispahic.
Cantonal branch offices were also established: Izet Hodzic was elected as the league's coordinator in Tuzla, Halil Brzina in Zenica, Nedzat Ajnadzic in Sarajevo, and Hajrudin Osmanagic in Bihac. It was also decided to register the Patriotic League as a citizens' association, with its headquarters in Tuzla.
Patriotic League And "El Mujahid"
The primary school where the meeting took place was also where mujahedin fighters had trained members of the El Mujahid unit. [Established by Islamist groups from abroad and based in central Bosnia, the unit fought on the side of Bosnian Muslims during the war.] The classic terrorist training lasted about a month and most of those who received training were organized after the war through the Active Islamic Youth organization, mostly in Srednjobosanski canton and in Zenica. Ibro Dervisevic and Midhat Puric, two Patriotic League coordinators from Zenica, completed the course.
SFOR Concerned About Patriotic League
The elite of patriotic Bosniaks gathered again in Mehurici this February. The meeting was better organized, even more secret, and was dominated by more members of the Federation BH Army and the Defense Ministry - which is logical given the return of the SDA to power. Participants discussed the Bosniaks' war preparations and concluded that significant progress had been made and that there is much more patriotic unity among Bosniaks than there was two years ago. Alispahic, the head of the political wing, was credited with increasing patriotic awareness, largely because of his media appearances. Our sources claim that the last meeting of the military wing's top brass caused concern in SFOR. Moreover, it is rumored that the international military and diplomatic community in Bosnia are increasingly concerned with the illegal military activities of the Bosniak military, police, and political elite.
Translated by Dragan Stojkovic for TOL wire