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Context of 'February-March 1995: Frequent Secret Flights Supplying Arms to Bosnian Muslims'

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Hasan Cengic.Hasan Cengic. [Source: Dani]The SDA, the ruling party of Bosnian Muslim President Alija Izetbegovic, decides in private meetings that war in Bosnia is inevitable. They begin forming their own paramilitary force called the Patriotic League, which answers to Izetbegovic and his party, not the Bosnian government as a whole. Hasan Cengic, a radical militant imam, is given control of the Patriotic League and begins arming it. The Bosnian Muslims have no armed force at all at this time while the Yugoslavian army they face is very large and well supplied. Cengic travels to many countries arranging secret arms deals to supply the new force, planned to be 30,000 soldiers strong. By the end of the year, he arranges deals with Slovenia, Lebanon, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and other countries. [Schindler, 2007, pp. 70] Cengic’s efforts will be the start of an illegal arms pipeline into Bosnia of massive proportions (see Mid-1991-1996).

Entity Tags: Party of Democratic Action (SDA), Alija Izetbegovic, Hasan Cengic, Patriotic League

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Elfatih Hassanein (center).Elfatih Hassanein (center). [Source: Magyar Iszlam]In 1987, a Sudanese man named Elfatih Hassanein found the Third World Relief Agency (TWRA). By mid-1991, Bosnian President Izetbegovic contacts Hassanein, who he has known since the 1970s. The two men agree to turn TWRA from an obscure charity into what the Washington Post will later call “the chief broker of black-market weapons deals by Bosnia’s Muslim-led government and the agent of money and influence in Bosnia for Islamic movements and governments around the world.” A banker in Vienna will later call Hassanein the “bagman” for Izetbegovic. “If the Bosnian government said we need flour, he ran after flour. If they said we need weapons, he ran after weapons.” [Washington Post, 9/22/1996; Schindler, 2007, pp. 148] The TWRA is controlled by a committee composed of Hassanein and:
bullet Hasan Cengic. He is in charge of arming a Bosnian militia run by the SDA party (see June 1991).
bullet Irfan Ljevakovic.
bullet Husein Zivalj.
bullet Dervis Djurdjevic.
All of them are important members of Izetbegovic’s SDA party, and all but Ljevakovic were codefendants with Izetbegovic in a 1983 trial. Most payments require the approval of three of the five, except for amounts greater than $500,000, in which case Izetbegovic has to give approval. The corruption from these higher-ups is said to be incredible, with up to half of all money passing through the TWRA going into their pockets. [Schindler, 2007, pp. 148-152] The TWRA is based in Vienna, Austria, and Izetbegovic personally guarantees Hassanein’s credentials with banks there. Soon, machine guns, missiles and other weapons are being shipped into Bosnia in containers marked as humanitarian aid. Hassanein is a member of Sudan’s government party and a follower of top Sudanese leader Hassan al-Turabi. Just like al-Turabi, he works with bin Laden and the “Blind Sheikh,” Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman. He becomes the main agent in Europe for marketing and selling video and audio tapes of Abdul-Rahman’s sermons. In March 1992, the Sudanese government gives him a diplomatic passport and he uses it to illegally transport large amounts of cash from Austria into Bosnia without being searched. [Burr and Collins, 2006, pp. 140-141] The Saudi Arabian government is the biggest contributor to TWRA, but many other governments give money to it too, such as Sudan, Iran, Pakistan, Brunei, Turkey, and Malaysia. Bin Laden is also a major contributor. [Washington Post, 9/22/1996] Author John Schindler will later note, “Relations between bin Laden and TWRA were close, not least because during the Bosnian war the al-Qaeda leadership was based in Khartoum, Sudan, under the protection of the Sudanese Islamist regime that was the ultimate backer of Hassanein and his firm.” TWRA also works closely with the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO) and most other charity fronts in Bosnia. [Schindler, 2007, pp. 151-152] A later study by the Bosnian government with help from Western intelligence agencies will determine that at least $2.5 billion passed through the TWRA to Bosnia between 1992 and 1995. The study will call the TWRA “a group of Bosnian Muslim wartime leaders who formed an illegal, isolated ruling oligarchy, comprising three to four hundred ‘reliable’ people in the military commands, the diplomatic service, and a number of religious dignitaries.… It was this organization, not the Government [of Bosnia], that controlled all aid that Islamic countries donated to the Bosnian Muslims throughout the war.” [Schindler, 2007, pp. 149-150]

Entity Tags: Omar Abdul-Rahman, Osama bin Laden, Dervis Djurdjevic, Alija Izetbegovic, Elfatih Hassanein, Hassan al-Turabi, Third World Relief Agency, Irfan Ljevakovic, Husein Zivalj, Hasan Cengic, International Islamic Relief Organization

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Muhammed Cengic, who has close ties to Bosnian intelligence, negotiates a military cooperation agreement with Turkey. According to Prof. Cees Wiebes, the agreement ostensibly involves Turkish purchases of Bosnian arms, but “it is reasonable to assume that the Turkish-Bosnian arms traffic in reality went in the opposite direction.” The Cengic family is very powerful in Bosnia. Western intelligence sources describe them as “Mafia.” [Wiebes, 2003, pp. 178-179] The clan also includes Hasan Cengic, who is one of the key figures in the Third World Relief Agency charity front and illegal weapons pipeline (see Mid-1991-1996).

Entity Tags: Muhammed Cengic

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

In 1996, the Washington Post reports that the Saudi Arabian government spent hundreds of millions of dollars to channel weapons to the Muslim Bosnians, and that the US government knew about it and assisted it. An anonymous Saudi official who took part in the effort will say that the US role “was more than just turning a blind eye to what was going on.… It was consent combined with stealth cooperation.… American knowledge began under [President George] Bush and became much greater under [President] Clinton.” The Bosnian program was modeled on Saudi and US cooperation to fund the mujaheddin in Afghanistan in the 1980s. The major difference is that if Afghanistan the Saudis and Americans split the costs, but in Bosnia the Saudis pay for everything. They spend $300 million on illegal weapons deliveries plus around $500 million in Saudi aid to the Bosnian government. The US helps because Saudi Arabia lacks the “technical sophistication” to mount the operation on their own. The Post will report, “The official refused to go into detail about the American role in the operation, other than to say that the Saudis had made use of the same ‘network’ of undercover operatives, arms salesmen, and ‘former this and former that’ set up during the Afghan operation.” The official does say, “We did not set up a formal structure, the way we did in Afghanistan. But logic tells you that without the consent of NATO, the United States, and Germany, there was no way it could have happened.” Most of the weapons go through Croatia since Bosnia lacks good access to the sea, and the Croatian government takes a cut of up to half of all the weapons. Some emergency deliveries are made through “secret nighttime flights to Tuzla and other airports under the control of the Bosnian authorities.” Other supplies come by sea, with NATO apparently turning a blind eye in their naval blockade of the coastline. The direct aid given to Bosnia is used to buy weapons on the black market at high prices, sometimes from Serb enemies. US government officials will later deny any such arrangement took place, but British, French, and other officials believe the US was secretly involved in efforts to arm the Bosnians. [Washington Post, 2/2/1996] Much of the money must go through the Third World Relief Agency (TWRA), since most illegal weapons get to Bosnia through the TWRA. This charity front has ties to Osama bin Laden and other radical militants (see Mid-1991-1996).

Entity Tags: United States, Third World Relief Agency, Saudi Arabia

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Mohammed Abouhalima.Mohammed Abouhalima. [Source: Corbis]Siddig Siddig Ali, Abdo Mohammed Haggag, Abu Ubaidah Yahya, Mohammed Abouhalima, and others train at a militant training camp in New Bloomfield, Pennsylvania, with weapons and ammunition provided by Yahya and Clement Rodney Hampton-El (see February 21, 1995). Abouhalima will later be convicted for a role in the 1993 WTC bombing, as will his brother (see February 26, 1993) while the others mentioned will be convicted for roles in the related “Landmarks” plot (see June 24, 1993). [USA v. Omar Ahmad Ali Abdel-Rahman et al, 7/13/1995, pp. 9] Yahya is the chief instructor, as he is an ex-US Marine who served two tours in Vietnam and teaches at a martial arts academy. Siddig Ali will later say of Yahya, “[H]e’s decorated and has a lot of medals… [and he was] a great trainer…” The training even includes mock nighttime assaults on a nearby electric power substation. [Kohlmann, 2004, pp. 73] An FBI informant named Garrett Wilson helps lead the FBI to the camp, and the FBI monitors it for two days, January 16 and 17, but the monitoring team is mysteriously pulled away before the end of the second day (see January 16-17, 1993). In a wiretapped conversation with an FBI informant (most likely Wilson), Siddig Ali says regarding the camp, “Our goal is that these people get extensive and very, very, very good training, so that we can get started at anyplace where jihad (holy war) is needed… And after they receive their training, they go to Bosnia… And whoever survives, I mean, could come and [instruct] somewhere else, or Egypt, or any other place, etc…” [Kohlmann, 2004, pp. 73] Hampton-El makes trips to Europe to pick up money from the Third World Relief Agency (TWRA) charity front to fund the camp (see Late 1992-Early 1993). TWRA is funneling huge amounts of weapons into Bosnia in violation of a UN embargo but with the tacit approval of the US (see Mid-1991-1996).

Entity Tags: Siddig Siddig Ali, Mohammed Abouhalima, Clement Rodney Hampton-El, Garrett Wilson, Abdo Mohammed Haggag, Abu Ubaidah Yahya, Third World Relief Agency

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

The US government, in collaboration with Hasan Cengic and his father Halid Cengic, starts work on an airport in Visoko, Bosnia, northwest of Sarajevo. This will become a major destination of a secret US arms pipeline into Bosnia. [Wiebes, 2003, pp. 179] US Special Forces are apparently secretly involved in the construction. [Scotsman, 12/3/1995] The Cengics are radical Muslims and Hasan Cengic is heavily involved with an illegal weapons pipeline into Bosnia controlled by radical militants (see Mid-1991-1996). The airport will be completed in late 1994 (see Late 1994-Late 1995).

Entity Tags: Hasan Cengic, Halid Cengic, US Special Forces

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Clement Rodney Hampton-El.Clement Rodney Hampton-El. [Source: Jolie Stahl]FBI investigators begin monitoring Clement Rodney Hampton-El’s house in New York as they close in on the militants involved in the “Landmarks” plot (see June 24, 1993). They listen in on a call from Hampton-El’s right-hand man, Abu Ubaidah Yahya, as he is in Vienna, Austria, picking up money from the Third World Relief Agency (TWRA) for the militants in the US tied to the Landmarks plot. Over the next few months, Yahya is tracked as he makes several trips from the US to Vienna, picking up about $100,000. [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 113] Hampton-El had also been in Vienna earlier in the year, picking up more money from TWRA for the plotters (see Late 1992-Early 1993). TWRA is funneling a huge amount of weapons to Muslim Bosnia in violation of a UN embargo but with the tacit approval of the US government (see Mid-1991-1996). It also has ties to radical militants like bin Laden and Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman. The Washington Post will later report that, “Intelligence agencies say they have tapes of telephone calls by Abdul-Rahman to [TWRA’s] office.” The “Landmarks” bombers are closely associated with Abdul-Rahman and will be convicted along with him. [Washington Post, 9/22/1996] A secret 1996 CIA report will state that “according to a foreign government service” Elfatih Hassanein, the head of TWRA, “supports US Muslim extremists in Bosnia.” [Central Intelligence Agency, 1/1996] But apparently the US does not go after TWRA for its ties to the “Landmarks” plotters and the connection will not be publicized for years.

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Clement Rodney Hampton-El, Abu Ubaidah Yahya, Elfatih Hassanein, Third World Relief Agency

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Brigadier Gen. Michael Hayden (left, with glasses), US Marine Corps Gen. David Mize (front and center), and US Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Edward Hanlon Jr. (behind Mize) in Gornji Vakuf, Bosnia, on September 4, 1994.Brigadier Gen. Michael Hayden (left, with glasses), US Marine Corps Gen. David Mize (front and center), and US Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Edward Hanlon Jr. (behind Mize) in Gornji Vakuf, Bosnia, on September 4, 1994. [Source: Paul Harris] (click image to enlarge)US ambassador Charles Thomas; Assistant Secretary of State for Europe Richard Holbrooke, his deputy Robert Frasure, head of intelligence for US European Command Brigadier Gen. Michael Hayden, US Air Force Gen. Charles Boyd, US Marine Corps Gen. David Mize, and US Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Edward Hanlon Jr., meet with the Muslim Bosnian army commander for Central Bosnia, Mehmet Alagic, in the town of Gornji Vakuf. The US group also visits Mostar, which is also controlled by the Bosnian Muslims. The Pentagon claims the US diplomats are there to familiarize themselves with the situation on the ground and the generals “just happened to be along,” but in appears in fact these meetings are part of a US effort to help the Croats and Muslims work together in upcoming offensives. Following this visit, US “logistics advisers” move into key locations throughout Bosnia, including the UN-controlled Tuzla airport. US Special Forces help build a secret airstrip in Visoko, central Bosnia, to land heavy transport aircraft (see Late 1994-Late 1995), and mysterious flights begin arriving at the Tuzla airports a few months later (see February-March 1995). [Observer, 11/20/1994; Scotsman, 12/3/1995] Hayden will later become head of the NSA and then head of the CIA.

Entity Tags: David Mize, Edward Hanlon Jr., Robert Frasure, Michael Hayden, Charles Boyd, Charles Thomas, Richard Holbrooke, Mehmet Alagic

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Bernard Janvier.Bernard Janvier. [Source: Dani]Roughly around this time, a new airport is completed in the Muslim Bosnian town of Visoko, northwest of Sarajevo. UN soldiers frequently report seeing C-130 transport planes landing there, and they say the runway is constantly being improved to handle more aircraft. One UN soldiers later says to the British newspaper the Observer, “Why don’t you write about Visoko airport? Planes land there all the time and we think they’re American.” [Observer, 11/5/1995; Schindler, 2007, pp. 184-185] Visoko is said to be the logistics center of the Bosnian army and the airport and area is run by Halid Cengic. Author and former NSA officer John Schindler will later call him head of the “fanatical and thievish Cengic clan.” He is said to make great profits on the materiel coming through the airport. He is also the father of Hasan Cengic, who is one of the key figures smuggling huge amounts of weapons into Bosnia through the Third World Relief Agency, a charity front tied to Osama bin Laden and other radical militants (see Mid-1991-1996). [Observer, 11/5/1995; Schindler, 2007, pp. 195] By March 1995, General Bernard Janvier, commander of UN forces in Bosnia, reports to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan that the Visoko airport is in operation and illegal supply flights are landing there. The report notes that the airport was built by Hasan Cengic with help from Iran. Canadian peacekeepers allege that unmarked flights coming into Visoko are American. However, this UN report is not made public. [Schindler, 2007, pp. 184-185] According to the Observer in November 1995, some Bosnian politicians say that the US is the “number one donor of all weapons into Bosnia” and British political sources say the Visoko airport was built with US help. Furthermore, UN officials complain that they frequently report flights into Visoko, but these flights are never cited as violations of the no-fly zone over all of Bosnia. One UN source says, “The Awacs (air warning and control systems planes) have sighted only two flights into Visoko in the last five months. There have been dozen of flights reported from the ground.” These UN officials believe that these flights in Visoko take place on days when Awacs flights are manned by all US crews instead of NATO crews. Another UN source says, “Only the US has the theater control to put certain aircraft in the air at certain times.” [Observer, 11/5/1995]

Entity Tags: Halid Cengic, US Military, Hasan Cengic, Kofi Annan, United Nations, Bernard Janvier

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Apparent footage of one of the mysterious Tuzla flights, from a BBC documentary on the subject.Apparent footage of one of the mysterious Tuzla flights, from a BBC documentary on the subject. [Source: BBC]UN observers and others report that frequent flights entering Bosnia are supplying weapons to the Bosnian Muslims in violation of the UN arms embargo. The flights clearly have the support of the US. [Wiebes, 2003, pp. 177- 198] A UN official who witnesses the flights is physically threatened by three American officers and warned to keep silent. [Wiebes, 2003, pp. 192] Journalists are also pressured and threatened by the US embassy, which is later said to have been acting on instructions from the State Department. [Wiebes, 2003, pp. 192] A subsequent investigation conducted with the support of the Netherlands government will conclude that the operation was conducted by a third party, probably Turkey, with “the assent of parts of the US government.” [Wiebes, 2003, pp. 195-198] Tim Ripley, who covers the military conflicts in Yugoslavia for Jane’s Intelligence Review, blames the Tuzla flights and similar operations on “‘covert warriors’ of the NSC [National Security Council] and State Department.” [Ripley, 1999, pp. 93] Prof. Cees Wiebes, who conducts the Netherlands investigation, agrees saying that “the State Department and National Security Council (NSC) were involved, but not the CIA or the DIA.” According to a confidential source, “the operation was… paid for from a Pentagon Special Operations budget, with the complete assent of the White House. Probably the most important members of Congress were informed in the deepest of secrecy, and they were therefore ‘in the loop’ concerning the events.” [Wiebes, 2003, pp. 193] Ripley says that US NATO officers were not involved, but points out that NATO Commander Admiral Leighton Smith was careful to only deny “uniformed” US military involvement. Ripley suggests that American “freelance operatives” were brought in by “senior members of the Clinton Administration.” [Ripley, 1999, pp. 62-63] According to Ripley, “Senior US military commanders and CIA officials were just staggered by the ‘duplicity’ and ‘deceit’ at the heart of the Clinton Administration’s policies.” [Ripley, 1999, pp. 91]

Entity Tags: Clinton administration, Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Council, US Department of State

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

It is reported that four charities operating in Bosnia are due to be shut down there within weeks. The four are Saudi High Relief Commission, Global Relief Foundation (GRF), Active Islamic Youth (AIO), and the Third World Relief Agency (TWRA). The Saudi High Commission is closely tied to the Saudi government and has given out hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Bosnia. At least three suspects recently arrested by the US worked for the Commission, and it had a long history of known militant links (see 1996 and After). In late 2001, GRF was shut down in the US and the UN shut its offices in nearby Kosovo (see December 14, 2001). In the early 1990s, TWRA funneled hundreds of millions of dollars worth of weapons to Bosnia in violation of a UN embargo (see Mid-1991-1996). A Bosnian police official says, “We have information that these groups are used to finance and support terrorism. There is also definitely money laundering here. And this laundering definitely shows evidence of sources in the narcotics and arms trades.” Bosnian Deputy Minister Rasim Kadic says, “A series of searches and other intelligence gathering proved activities and evidence that has no relationship to humanitarian work. Four groups have very suspicious financial dealings and other issues have made police very suspicious about these four groups.… We expect to make the hard decision to close some of these groups. We will say ‘Thank you for your help, but now you must go.’” Officials say have also discovered evidence of drug and weapons trafficking by the four charities. [United Press International, 1/25/2002] But in fact, the four charities are not shut down in Bosnia, except for GRF, which will have its offices there shut near the end of 2002. [BBC, 11/28/2002] In 2004, there will be reports that TWRA is operating in the Czech Republic. [BBC, 3/15/2004] And in 2005, counterterrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna will tell an Austrian newspaper that TWRA is still tied to radical militants and still active there. [BBC, 6/14/2005]

Entity Tags: Third World Relief Agency, Rohan Gunaratna, Saudi High Commission, Rasim Kadic, Global Relief Foundation, Active Islamic Youth

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Munir Alibabic.Munir Alibabic. [Source: Dani]By 2002, the Muslim Bosnian government is controlled by the Social Democrats, now that Alija Izetbegovic has retired and his SDA party is out of power. To deal with the issues of corruption and terrorism, in July 2002 the new government brings Munir Alibabic out of retirement to run Bosnia’s intelligence agency. Alibabic had been fired in 1994 as head of the secret police in Sarajevo for opposing government corruption and the support of the mujaheddin, and he is widely respected for his integrity. He vows to stop the cover-up of Bosnian Muslim ties to terrorism, stating, “A crime is a crime, regardless which side commits it.” He works aggressively with other intelligence agencies to uncover the al-Qaeda network in Bosnia. He soon completes a report detailing ties between the SDA party and organized crime. The report names Elfatih Hassanein, Hasan Cengic, Irfan Ljevakovic, Bakir Alispahic, and Alija Delimustafic as key co-consiprators. The first three were central figures in the Third World Relief Agency (TWRA), a bin Laden-linked charity front active in the early 1990s (see Mid-1991-1996). But in October 2002 elections, the SDA returns to power. Paddy Ashdown, a British politician serving as the Office of the High Representative in Bosnia, publicly supported the SDA over secularists and reformers in the election and shortly after they win he fires Alibabic. Author John Schindler will later write that “By the end of 2002, it was evident that the post-9/11 drive to run al-Qaeda out of Bosnia and force its local supporters to heel had run out of steam.” [Schindler, 2007, pp. 289-291] The Telegraph will later report that Ashdown fired Alibabic on the advice of the British intelligence agency MI6, but it isn’t clear why. [Daily Telegraph, 9/27/2004]

Entity Tags: Hasan Cengic, Alija Delimustafic, Elfatih Hassanein, UK Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), Paddy Ashdown, Party of Democratic Action (SDA), Munir Alibabic, Irfan Ljevakovic, Bakir Alispahic, Third World Relief Agency

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Haris SilajdzicHaris Silajdzic [Source: Public domain]Press reports indicate that the Muslim leader of Bosnia’s tripartite presidency, Haris Silajdzic, is under investigation for international arms smuggling. Police are also said to be investigating former Bosnian Deputy Defense Minister Hasan Cengic, Elfatih Hassanein, and Turkish businessman Nedim Suljak. Hassanein was the head of the Third World Relief Agency (TWRA) and Cengic was closely tied to TWRA. During the Bosnian war in the early 1990s, TWRA was a radical militant charity front providing cover for a massive illegal arms pipeline into Bosnia (see Mid-1991-1996). Silajdzic was Bosnian foreign minister during the war. Bosnian state prosecutors confirm that a weapons smuggling investigation into international illegal weapons smuggling had opened but refuse to say who is being targeted. [Agence France-Presse, 5/5/2007] TWRA has remained active and there are reports that it is still connected to radical militants (see January 25, 2002). In late 2006, it was announced that Hassanein was opening a new charity in Bosnia. [BBC, 12/29/2006]

Entity Tags: Nedim Suljak, Elfatih Hassanein, Hasan Cengic, Third World Relief Agency, Haris Silajdzic

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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