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Context of 'Shortly After April 6, 1992: Mujaheddin Begin Arriving in Bosnia to Fight against Serbs'

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“A Call for Jihad in Bosnia” flyer published by the Al-Kifah Refugee Center’s Boston branch.“A Call for Jihad in Bosnia” flyer published by the Al-Kifah Refugee Center’s Boston branch. [Source: Public domain]The Al-Kifah Refugee Center in Brooklyn, New York, is al-Qaeda’s main foothold in the US and most of the 1993 WTC bombers are closely tied to it. It had been formed in the 1980s to send militants to fight in Afghanistan and also help veteran fighters settle in the US (see 1986-1993). But the Afghanistan war against the Soviets ended in early 1989 and the winning factions soon began fighting amongst themselves (see February 15, 1989). But a new cause is on the horizon as Yugoslavia starts falling apart. By 1991, the center’s parent organization in Pakistan, Maktab al-Khidamat(MAK)/Al-Kifah begins setting up al-Qaeda charity fronts in the Bosnia region (see 1991). The main regional MAK/Al-Kifah branch in Zagreb, Croatia, is also called the Al-Kifah Refugee Center like the Brooklyn branch and has very close ties with that branch (see Early 1990s). In 1992, war breaks out in Bosnia (see April 6, 1992) and the Al-Kifah Refugee Center in Brooklyn shifts its focus fully to the Bosnia cause. For instance, the Boston branch publishes “A Call for Jihad in Bosnia.” It claims that more than 100,000 Bosnians had been killed and that thousands of Muslim girls had been kidnapped and kept in Yugoslav army camps for sex. It urges readers who wish “to provide the emerging jihad movement in Bosnia with more than food and shelter” to send their donations to Al-Kifah. And just as Al-Kifah led the effort to send US-based militants to fight in Afghanistan, it appears to do the same for Bosnia. Vanity Fair will later claim, “Dozens and perhaps hundreds of US residents are reported to have joined appeals to fight the Serbs in Bosnia.” [Vanity Fair, 3/2005] The head of the Al-Kifah Refugee Center’s Zagreb branch, Kamer Eddine Kherbane, apparently is also one of the leaders of the mujaheddin fighters in Bosnia around this time (see 1990 and 1991). The CIA had ties to Al-Kifah during the Afghan war (see Late 1980s and After) and there is some circumstantial evidence of US government ties to it during the Bosnia war. In 1992, Ali Mohamed, a double agent and ex-US Special Forces officer with close ties to Al-Kifah, leads a group of US militants who are all ex-US soldiers to train and fight in Bosnia (see December 1992). Abu Ubaidah Yahya, an ex-US marine and security chief at the Brooklyn branch, will lead a second group of US militants to fight in Bosnia (see Spring 1993).

Entity Tags: Ali Mohamed, Abu Ubaidah Yahya, Al-Kifah Refugee Center, Kamer Eddine Kherbane, Maktab al-Khidamat

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

In a meeting held in Lisbon by the European Community, top Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, top Bosnian Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic, and top Bosnian Croat leader Stepan Klujic sign an agreement to partition Bosnia into three ethnically based divisions which would form a loosely joined independent confederation. But the New York Times will later report, “A few days later, influenced by what he saw as an encouraging conversation with Warren Zimmermann, the United States ambassador, [Izetbegovic] changed his mind.” The Bosnian Muslims and Croats then quickly hold a referendum on the issue of Bosnian independence which passes by 99 percent on March 1, but the Bosnian Serbs boycott the vote. [New York Times, 10/20/2003] Then, on March 18, the same three leaders hold another meeting in Lisbon and again agree to the partition plan. But the New York Times will report a year later, “On returning to Sarajevo, Mr. Izetbegovic was encouraged by United States and European Community diplomats to choose instead a sovereign Bosnia and Herzegovina under his presidency, saying that was justified by the referendum on March 1 on independence.” [New York Times, 6/17/1993] War will break out one month later (see April 6, 1992). The final agreement at the end of the war three years later will closely resemble the agreement almost signed before it began (see December 14, 1995).

Entity Tags: Alija Izetbegovic, Radovan Karadzic, Stepan Klujic, Warren Zimmermann

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

UN forces begin arriving in Bosnia, where they make their regional headquarters in the capital of Sarajevo. The UN troops are moving into the region in an attempt to keep the peace between Croatian and Serb forces fighting in neighboring Croatia. But within a month, war will break out in Bosnia and the UN troops will find themselves involved there as well (see April 6, 1992). [New York Times, 3/15/1992] US troops will soon be forced to withdraw from Bosnia, but are able to establish a truce in Croatia. [New York Times, 5/31/1992]

Entity Tags: United Nations

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Territory controlled around the start of the war. White represents the Bosnian Serbs while gray represents Bosnian Muslims and Croats.Territory controlled around the start of the war. White represents the Bosnian Serbs while gray represents Bosnian Muslims and Croats. [Source: Time / Cowan, Castello, Glanton]Bosnia declares independence from Yugoslavia (which is now mostly made up of Serbia). The Bosnian Serbs immediately declare their own separate state, but remain closely tied to Serbia. War between Bosnia and Serbia begins immediately, adding to the existing war between Croatia and Serbia. Within days, the US recognizes the states of Croatia, Slovenia, and Bosnia. The European Union, which has already recognized Croatia and Slovenia, recognizes Bosnia as well. Serbia immediately gains the upper hand and within a month Serbian forces surround most of the area around the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo. [US Department of State, 12/6/1995; Time, 12/31/1995; New York Times, 10/20/2003]

Entity Tags: Serbia and Montenegro, Bosnia

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Soon after Bosnian Muslims declare independence from Yugoslavia (see April 6, 1992), Muslim volunteers from all of the Muslim world come to help fight against the Bosnian Serbs. These volunteers are generally known as the mujaheddin, just as they were in the 1980s war in Afghanistan (and many fought there as well). A military analyst will later call them “pretty good fighters and certainly ruthless.” However, their numbers are small, never reaching more than 4,000 (see 1993-1995). In an interview shortly after 9/11, Richard Holbrooke, Balkans peace negotiator for the US, will say, “I think the Muslims wouldn’t have survived without” help from the mujaheddin. But he will also call their help “a pact with the devil” from which Bosnia is still recovering. [Los Angeles Times, 10/7/2001]

Entity Tags: Richard Holbrooke

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

The caption for this picture published in newspapers on December 11, 1995, reads, “One of the Bosnian Army Muslim brigades marches through Zenica in a demonstration of strength by 10,000 soldiers.”The caption for this picture published in newspapers on December 11, 1995, reads, “One of the Bosnian Army Muslim brigades marches through Zenica in a demonstration of strength by 10,000 soldiers.” [Source: Reuters] (click image to enlarge)The number of Mujaheddin fighting in Bosnia plateau at around several thousand. Estimates of mujaheddin numbers in Bosnia vary from as few as a couple of hundred to as many as 4,000. However, most put the number somewhere between 1,000 and 2,000. The difficulty in pinning down an exact figure stems from fact that there are a variety of foreign mercenary groups in Bosnia and it is not entirely clear who is and who isn’t mujaheddin. Furthermore, these groups are not all present in Bosnia at the same time. According to Cees Wiebes, a professor at Amsterdam University, mujaheddin forces in Bosnia are not controlled by Bosnian authorities, but rather by their countries of origin, Islamic militant organizations, and criminal organizations. [Wiebes, 2003, pp. 207-208] While the mujaheddin’s presence in Bosnia is said to be of only limited military value, they are considered a valuable “political tool” for obtaining the support from Arab countries. According to a UN report, Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic sees the fighters as “a conduit for funds from the Gulf and the Middle East.” [Wiebes, 2003, pp. 208, 215]

Entity Tags: Cees Wiebes, Alija Izetbegovic

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

In the front row from right to left: Slobodan Milosevic, Franjo Tudjman,  and Alija Izetbegovic, sign the Dayton accords. In the back row stands, from right to left, Felipe Gonzalez, Bill Clinton, Jacques Chirac, Helmut Kohl, John Major and Viktor Tchernomyrdine.In the front row from right to left: Slobodan Milosevic, Franjo Tudjman, and Alija Izetbegovic, sign the Dayton accords. In the back row stands, from right to left, Felipe Gonzalez, Bill Clinton, Jacques Chirac, Helmut Kohl, John Major and Viktor Tchernomyrdine. [Source: Reuters] (click image to enlarge)A peace agreement between the Bosnians, Croats, and Serbs fighting in Bosnia is signed in Paris. Known as the Dayton Accords, the agreement was hammered out in Dayton, Ohio, the month before (see November 1-22, 1995). As part of the agreement, thousands of NATO troops begin arriving in Bosnia immediately to help keep the peace. UN peacekeepers turn their job over to NATO forces on December 20. The peace does hold in the Bosnia and Croatia regions, thus ending a war that began in 1992 (see April 6, 1992). It claimed more than 200,000 lives and made six million people homeless. [Time, 12/31/1995] Fifty-one percent of Bosnia goes to an alliance of Muslims and Croats and 49 percent goes to a Serbian republic. [New York Times, 10/20/2003] As part of the deal, all foreign fighters are required to leave Bosnia within 30 days. In practical terms, this means the mujaheddin who have been fighting for the Bosnian Muslims (see January 14, 1996). [Washington Post, 3/11/2000]

Entity Tags: Bosnia, Serbia and Montenegro, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Croatia

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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