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There is a growing conflict within the Bush administration between the “selective engagers” and an alliance of “hardliners” and “liberal humanitarianists” over whether or not to intervene militarily in Bosnia. The selective engagers believe that the US should militarily intervene only in cases where US strategic interests are directly threatened. Richard Perle and Albert Wohlstetter are prominently mentioned among the hardliners. [Western, 7/1999]
Christoph von Bezold. [Source: History Channel]In 1997, it will be reported that the German parliament’s Control Commission, which oversees Germany’s intelligence services, is investigating media allegations that the BND German intelligence agency covertly and illegally armed the Bosnian Muslims and Croats during the Bosnian war. The BND allegedly infiltrated the European Union’s monitoring missions that were supposed to help arrange ceasefires and assist with humanitarian aid. The Germans used that cover to smuggle weapons and money to Bosnian Muslims. In one instance, Christoph von Bezold, head of the German EU monitors in Zagreb, Croatia, was allegedly actually a BND agent and on March 27, 1994, he shipped munitions across enemy lines to the Bosnian Muslim controlled pocket of Bihac, Bosnia, in boxes supposedly containing powdered milk. Apparently this was just one of many such shipments using EU monitors as cover. In addition, Germany appears to be Croatia’s largest arms supplier during the war, although this is in violation of German law prohibiting the shipments of arms to an active war zone and a violation of the UN arms embargo on Yugoslavia as well. Most of the Croatia military hardware comes from East German supplies rendered obsolete in Germany after East and West Germany merged. Germany even smuggled former East German MiG-21 fighters to Croatia. [Daily Telegraph, 4/20/1997]
Mujaheddin battalions in formation during the Bosnia war. More details are unknown. [Source: History Channel]Saudi multimillionaire Yassin al-Qadi forms the Muwafaq Foundation (also known as Blessed Relief). The Muwafaq Foundation is a charitable trust registered in Jersey, an island off the coast of Britain with lenient charity regulations. [Burr and Collins, 2006, pp. 121-123] Al-Qadi is said to be the chief investor, donating about $15 to $20 million for the charity from his fortune. He also persuades members of very rich and powerful Saudi families to help out. [Chicago Tribune, 10/29/2001] The foundation’s board of directors will later be called “the creme de la creme of Saudi society.” [New York Times, 10/13/2001] Saudi billionaire Khalid bin Mahfouz’s legal team will later state that bin Mahfouz “was the principal donor to the foundation at its inception in 1991 but was not involved in the running of the charity.” They also will state that the foundation was purely humanitarian and had no terrorist ties. [Bin Mahfouz Info, 11/22/2005] The Muwafaq Foundation opens offices in several African countries, but it is soon suspected of providing funds for Islamic extremists. For instance, in 1992 it opens an office in Mogadishu, Somalia, at a time when al-Qaeda is assisting militants fighting US soldiers there (see October 3-4, 1993). Burr and Collins will claim “its purpose [there] consisted of transporting weapons and ammunition to Islamists in the city.” But most of the foundation’s work appears to center on Bosnia. It opens an office in neighboring Croatia in 1992, the same year the Bosnian war begins, and then in Sarajevo, Bosnia, a year later. By June 1993, group of mujaheddin fighting in the Zenica region of Bosnia form the Al Muwafaq Brigade. It consists of about 750 Afghan-Arabs and has Iranian advisers. According to Burr and Collins, it soon becomes well known in the region that the Muwafaq Foundation is funding the Al Muwafaq Brigade and at least one camp in Afghanistan training mujaheddin to fight in Bosnia. One member of the brigade is Ahmed Ressam, who will later be arrested in an al-Qaeda plot to blow up the Los Angeles airport (see December 14, 1999). In July 1995, a US Foreign Broadcast Information Service report indicates that the Muwafaq Foundation’s office in Zagreb, Croatia, is a bin Laden front. In early 1996, bin Laden will mention in an interview that he supports the “Muwafaq Society” in Zagreb. However, al-Qadi denies any ties to fighting mujaheddin. The brigade apparently disbands after the war ends in 1995 and the Muwafaq Foundation will close its Bosnia office by 1998. [Burr and Collins, 2006, pp. 121-123, 137-138] A secret 1996 CIA report will claim that Muwafaq has ties to the al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya militant group and helps fund mujaheddin fighting in Bosnia and at least one training camp in Afghanistan (see January 1996). The US will declare al-Qadi a terrorist financier shortly after 9/11 but has never taken any action against the Muwafaq Foundation (see 1995-1998).
Mohammed Haydar Zammar, who will later be the chief recruiter for and a key member of the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell, travels widely and joins al-Qaeda. Zammar was born in Syria but his family moved to Hamburg, Germany, in 1971. He became a German citizen and renounced his Syrian citizenship about a decade later. By his late teens, he developed a friendship with Mamoun Darkazanli, a fellow Syrian, and both of them joined the Muslim Brotherhood, a radical Muslim group banned in Egypt. Zammar worked as an auto mechanic until about 1991, when he decides to become a full time militant, and he mostly lives on government benefits after that.
Training and Fighting in Afghanistan - In 1991, Zammar goes to Afghanistan and trains at an elite camp linked to Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. He fights with Hekmatyar’s forces against the Communist Afghan government before returning to Hamburg by the end of 1991.
Active in Many Countries - Over the next five years, he makes about 40 trips out of Germany, often to countries where Islamist militants are fighting. In 1995, he fights in Bosnia with other Arabs against the Serbians. In 1996, he goes to Afghanistan again and formally pledges allegiance to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, according to an unnamed Arab intelligence agency.
His Travels Cause Attention - All of Zammar’s traveling brings him to the attention of Turkish intelligence, and it notifies German intelligence about his radical militant links in 1996 (see 1996). Knowing that his militant activity is not illegal in Germany as long as he is not involved in a plot targeting Germany, Zammar speaks openly about his travels and exploits, and he becomes very well known within the Islamist extremist community in Hamburg. He begins recruiting others to become active militants and attend Afghan training camps. [Washington Post, 9/11/2002; New York Times, 1/18/2003]
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).
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:
Hasan Cengic. He is in charge of arming a Bosnian militia run by the SDA party (see June 1991).
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
The UN Security Council votes to impose an arms embargo on all countries occupying the region of Yugoslavia. Macedonia, Croatia, and Slovenia have split from Yugoslavia by this time and Bosnia will in early 1992, leaving Serbia to dominate what’s left of Yugoslavia. The New York Times comments, “The resolution is in effect an effort to prevent Croatia and other successionist republics from buying arms from other countries. The Yugoslav armed forces have long had a highly developed arms industry of their own and do not need to import weapons at this time…” [New York Times, 9/26/1991]
Khalil Deek, a US citizen and al-Qaeda operative mostly living in California, also works in Bosnia for the Islamic Relief Agency (ISRA), also known as the Islamic African Relief Agency (IARA), during the Bosnia war. [Wall Street Journal, 11/17/2000] A secret 1996 CIA report will say, “The IARA office in Zagreb [Croatia] provides weapons to the Bosnian military, according to a clandestine source. The source claimed the office was controlled by officials of Sudan’s ruling party, the National Islamic Front.” [Central Intelligence Agency, 1/1996] The Wall Street Journal will later claim that the “US suspects [the IARA] was involved in smuggling fighters into Bosnia from among the mujaheddin.” [Wall Street Journal, 11/17/2000] Deek has a Bosnian passport. [Schindler, 2007, pp. 270] Some reports identify him as a US Army veteran. [Orange County Weekly, 6/15/2006] Deek will later reportedly serve similar roles for al-Qaeda in Pakistan, helping to smuggle weapons (see May 2000) and direct recruits to militant training camps in Afghanistan (see 1998-December 11, 1999). While in Bosnia, he will get to know other al-Qaeda operatives later connected to various bomb plots (see January 2000). Around the same time that he is working in Bosnia, he is also being monitored by the FBI running militant training camps in California, but the FBI takes no action against him or his camps (see Early 1990s).
“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).
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) fights and fundraises in Bosnia. The 9/11 Commission will later state, “In 1992, KSM spent some time fighting alongside the mujaheddin in Bosnia and supporting that effort with financial donations.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 147] He reportedly fights with the elite El Mujahid battalion, and gains Bosnian citizenship. [Schindler, 2007, pp. 281] He also works for Egypitska Pomoc, an Egyptian aid group in Zenica, Bosnia, and in 1995 becomes one of its directors. [Playboy, 6/1/2005] KSM mostly lives in Qatar for the next three years (see 1992-1996), but in 1995 he is back fighting in Bosnia as the violence escalates that year. Abdallah bin Khalid al-Thani, Qatar’s Minister of Religious Affairs, underwrites the costs of the trip. [Los Angeles Times, 12/22/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 147, 488] This second trip to Bosnia means that KSM fights there at the same time as 9/11 hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, though it is not known if they meet (see 1993-1999). The FBI will later suspect that KSM helped build a bomb used to blow up a police station in neighboring Croatia while KSM was in the area (see October 20, 1995).
Fateh Kamel. [Source: Radio Canada]The Al-Kifah Refugee Center in Brooklyn has an office in Zagreb, Croatia, also called the Al-Kifah Refugee Center, and the links between the two are very close. Both are connected to Maktab al-Khidamat/Al-Kifah in Pakistan, which is an al-Qaeda charity front. Hassan Hakim, deputy director of the Zagreb office, says his office is linked only to the Brooklyn office. This is important because the Zagreb office is closely involved in assisting mujaheddin in the Bosnian war and the Brooklyn office is closely linked to the CIA, suggesting the CIA could be assisting the Bosnia mujaheddin through the relationship between Brooklyn and Zagreb offices. [Washington Post, 8/3/1993; Kohlmann, 2004, pp. 41] The Zagreb office will remain open after the Brooklyn office is closed in the wake of the 1993 WTC bombing (see February 26, 1993), as all of the bombers were connected to that office. A Washington Post journalist who visits it in August 1993 describes it as being “housed in a modern, two-story building staffed by Arabs who identified themselves as Algerians.” [Washington Post, 8/3/1993] Like the Brooklyn office, the Zagreb office appears to be staffed with many militants involved in illegal activities:
Fateh Kamel will reportedly be involved in many attacks and is considered a leader for Ahmed Ressam, who will attempt to bomb the Los Angeles airport (see December 14, 1999).
Lionel Dumont is involved in numerous al-Qaeda plots, even as far afield as Japan.
Hocine Senoussaoui is connected with Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya and the GIA and will be arrested in France in 1996. [Kohlmann, 2004, pp. 164, 186, 189, 195]
Kamar Eddine Kherbane, head of the Zagreb office, is a known al-Qaeda operative as well as a leader of an Algerian extremist group, and allegedly will be involved in the 9/11 attacks (see September 18-20, 2001).
Hassan Hakim. A 1996 CIA report will say that he is a senior member of Algerian extremist groups and was arrested in France for weapons smuggling in July 1994.
In 1996, a CIA report will say that an Algerian national connected to the Zagreb office is “preparing for an unspecified terrorist attack in Europe…” [Central Intelligence Agency, 1/1996]
Yemeni Sheikh Mohammed Ali Hassan al-Moayad helps funnel Islamist warriors to Bosnia for al-Qaeda from 1992 through 1995, prosecutors will allege during his 2004-2005 trial. [Associated Press, 3/10/2005] At the trial, a “protected” Croatian witness will testify that al-Moayad is involved in laundering $800-$900 million from a Saudi charitable organization through the Croatian Zagrebacka Bank. The stated purpose of these funds is to aid Muslim refugees from the 1992-1995 Bosnian war, but 90 percent of this money actually goes to al-Qaeda guerrillas fighting on the Bosnian Muslim side. [Agence France-Presse, 9/21/2005]
Warren Zimmerman. [Source: BBC]The official US policy at this time is that the US in working to keep Yugoslavia together. But in an interview with a Croatian newspaper, US ambassador to Yugoslavia Warren Zimmerman says, “We are aiming for a dissolution of Yugoslavia into independent states peacefully…” [Danas, 1/21/1992]
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).
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).
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]
The United States recognizes the states of Croatia, Slovenia, and Bosnia. The European Union, which has already recognized Croatia and Slovenia, recognizes Bosnia. [US Department of State, 12/6/1995]
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]
CIA paramilitary contractor Billy Waugh fights in Bosnia. Details of his actions, the other members of his team, and the actual operations are unknown, but in his 2004 autobiography Waugh will say, “I saw combat in Bosnia and Kosovo, conducting operations I cannot discuss.” [Waugh and Keown, 2004, pp. 307] This may occur during the Bosnian Civil War, at which time no US troops are officially involved in combat in Bosnia. [Nato Review, 9/2005] Alternatively, according to Time magazine, during the mid and late 1990s CIA paramilitaries hunt Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, so Waugh may be part of this operation. [Time, 2/3/2003] Waugh is a covert operations legend—his career began in Vietnam and will end in Afghanistan in 2002, by which time he is in his 70s. [Waugh and Keown, 2004]
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]
At the outset of the war in Bosnia, a small three- or four-man team from the CIA and National Security Agency determine from satellite images that the Serb’s artillery guns are in vulnerable positions and can be easily “eliminated in one single day of air strikes-right at the start of the siege.” When a diplomat who is working with the team sends word of this to Assistant Secretary for European Affairs Tom Niles, the intelligence is ignored by US officials who do not want to US to get militarily involved. Two months later, officials from the Pentagon and CIA will incorrectly tell the Senate foreign relations committee that striking Serbian artillery positions would be impossible because of the dense forests and mountainous terrain. The diplomat will later take his story to the Guardian, suggesting that claims the Bosnian War was unexpected by US intelligence were without merit and that the Senate Committee was deliberately misled. [Guardian, 5/20/1995]
The US Security Council votes to impose tough sanctions on Yugoslavia, which effectively refers to Serbia since most other Yugoslav republics have declared independence. The embargo requires all the countries of the world to cease trading in any commodity, including oil, and to freeze all its foreign assets. All air traffic links are suspended as well. Sales of medicine and food are exempted. The sanctions are meant to pressure Serbia to agree to a cease fire in the war in Bosnia. [New York Times, 5/31/1992]
Abu Abdel Aziz Barbaros in Bosnia in September 1992. His beard is dyed with henna. [Source: Pascal le Segretain / Corbis]Jamal al-Fadl, an al-Qaeda financial agent, is sent from bin Laden’s headquarters in Sudan to Zagreb, Croatia, to gather information about the Bosnian war and the prospects of buying businesses in Croatia for al-Qaeda. In Croatia, he meets with Enaam Arnaout (who will soon become the head of the Benevolence International Foundation (BIF) in the US), and al-Qaeda operatives Abu Abdel Aziz Barbaros (a.k.a. Abdel Rahman al Dosari), and Abu Zubair al Madani, one of bin Laden’s cousins (he will later be killed fighting in Bosnia). Barbaros tells al-Fadl that al-Qaeda is seeking to create training camps in Bosnia, develop relationships with Bosnian charities, and establish businesses to help finance al-Qaeda activities. He says that BIF is providing money for al-Qaeda to buy weapons to use in Bosnia and that they have already obtained some weapons from Germany with the help of BIF and Mohammed Loay Bayazid (who also works for BIF in the US). According to a later Justice Department indictment, Barbaros also says that “al-Qaeda’s goal in Bosnia [is] to establish a base for operations in Europe against al-Qaeda’s true enemy, the United States.” Around this time, BIF begins providing food, clothing, money and communications equipment to fighters in Bosnia, including the elite Black Swans unit. [USA v. Enaam M. Arnaout, 10/6/2003, pp. 24-25 ; Kohlmann, 2004, pp. 16-17] In 1996, al-Fadl will defect from al-Qaeda and tell all he knows to US investigators (see June 1996-April 1997).
Jamal al-Fadl travels to Vienna and has meetings with the Third World Relief Agency (TWRA), which has its headquarters in Vienna. He opens up a Vienna bank account and al-Qaeda operative Wadih El-Hage also opens up a Vienna bank account around this time. Presumably these accounts are used by al-Qaeda to send money to TWRA for operations in Bosnia. Around the same time, al-Qaeda leader Mamdouh Mahmud Salim tells al-Fadl that al-Qaeda’s goal is to make Bosnia a base for European operations. [United States of America v. Usama bin Laden, et al., Day 21, 3/22/2001; USA v. Enaam M. Arnaout, 10/6/2003, pp. 24-25 ] TWRA will funnel hundreds of millions of dollars into Bosnia for illegal weapons purchases over the next several years while the US watches but fails to act. In 1996, al-Fadl will defect from al-Qaeda and tell all he knows to US investigators (see June 1996-April 1997).
A secret weapons pipeline into Bosnia in violation of a UN arms embargo is exposed. Large transport planes have been arriving once a week for four weeks from Sudan to Maribor, Slovenia. The cargo is marked as humanitarian aid but in fact the planes are carrying tons of weapons, mostly from surplus stocks of old Soviet weapons. The planes are run by a company belonging to Victor Bout, a notorious illegal arms dealer who will later work closely with the Taliban in Afghanistan (see October 1996-Late 2001). [Farah and Braun, 2007, pp. 50-51, 268-269] Such planes have been bringing weapons through Croatia bound for Muslim Bosnia, but due to deteriorating relations between Croatia and Muslim Bosnia, the Croatian government stops the flights and impounds 120 tons of weapons. At the same time, chartered Russian helicopters fly more weapons directly into Muslim Bosnia. Austrian government agents learn that the Third World Relief Agency (TWRA) is financing all of these shipments. They are working with Hasan Cengic, a radical imam who is also a Bosnian government official. The TWRA and Cengic switch to other routes. The next year, the German government will stumbled across an illegal weapons deal being negotiated in Germany by Bosnian Muslims and Turkish arms dealers and arrest around 30. TWRA was the financial broker of the deal. But despite the exposure of TWRA as a charity front, no government takes any action against it and it will continue to be the main vehicle by which Muslim Bosnia gets illegal weapons. [Washington Post, 9/22/1996; Farah and Braun, 2007, pp. 50-51, 268-269] Bout and Cengic will apparently continue working together. A 2004 Bosnian intelligence report will say that “Victor Bout in collaboration with Hasan Cengic is transporting weapons to Chechnya” via a Bout front company. [Farah and Braun, 2007, pp. 50-51, 268-269]
Ayman al-Zawahiri in disguise. [Source: Interpol]Al-Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri is said to visit Bosnia many times from around this date. A prominent Muslim Bosnian politician later claims that al-Zawahiri visited mujaheddin camps in central Bosnia as early as September 1992. The Egyptian government, which considers al-Zawahiri an important enemy, claims al-Zawahiri is running several mujaheddin operations in Bosnia through charity fronts. They also claim he meets regularly with Bosnian Muslim politicians in Sarajevo. He is further said to occasionally meet with Iranian government representatives to discuss the war in Bosnia, as Iran is supplying weapons to the Bosnian Muslims. [Schindler, 2007, pp. 123, 141] Anwar Shaaban, a radical imam leading the Bosnian mujaheddin effort from Milan, Italy (see Late 1993-1994), remains in regular contact with al-Zawahiri, according to Italian intelligence. [Schindler, 2007, pp. 164] In 1993, bin Laden reportedly puts al-Zawahiri in charge of the organization’s operations in the Balkans. [Ottawa Citizen, 12/15/2001] By 1994, al-Zawahiri will settle in Bulgaria to manage operations in Bosnia and the rest of the Balkan region (see September 1994-1996).
Lord David Owen arrives in Sarajevo as the new European Union peace negotiator. Owen is initially seen as anti-Serb and had recently advocated Western air strikes against the Bosnian Serbs. He is outraged that his arrival coincides with a Serb bombardment of the Kosevo Hospital in Sarajevo, Bosnia. But within hours, he learns that the incident was actually provoked by the Bosnian Muslims. He will later say, “The UN monitors actually saw the Muslim troops enter the hospital and, from the hospital grounds, firing at Serb positions. Then the mortar was packed up and removed as the television crew showed up. A few minutes later a retaliatory fire of course landed in or near the hospital and all was filmed for television.” UN Gen. Philippe Morillon immediately writes a letter to Bosnian President Izetbegovic: “I now have concrete evidence from witnesses of this cowardly and disreputable act and I must point out the harm such blatant disregard for the Geneva Convention does to your cause.” But the letter and information about the incident is not made public and the Serbs are the only ones blamed for the incident. Owen will later say, “I asked Morillon why didn’t he make this public, and he shrugged his shoulders [and said], ‘We have to live here.’” [Rothstein, 1999, pp. 176, 188]
The Bosnian Serbs have the upper hand in their war with the Bosnian Muslims and Croats. A UN human rights investigator warns that the Bosnian Muslims are “virtually threatened with extermination” unless they are helped by outside forces. But a UN weapons embargo is still in place. [Los Angeles Times, 4/5/1996]
The UN Security Council votes to impose a naval blockade around Serbia (which does not have much effect since Serbia is a landlocked country). While debating the resolution, a number of Islamic countries argue that Bosnia should be excluded from the arms embargo that was imposed on all former Yugoslavia republics in September 1991 (see September 26, 1991). But the US successfully leads an effort to shoot down the proposal. Former US Secretary of State Cyrus Vance tells the Security Council, “It taxes credulity to suggest that lifting the arms embargo for only one party is either feasible or desirable.” [New York Times, 11/17/1992] Ironically, around the same time, the US begins to secretly support Bosnian Muslim efforts to violate the embargo using a charity front controlled by radical militants (see September 1992).
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).
Clement Rodney Hampton-El will later admit that he had been smuggling money into the US for military training from the Third World Relief Agency (TWRA). [USA v. Benevolence International Foundation and Enaam M. Arnaout, 4/29/2002, pp. 6-7 ] Hampton-El is linked to Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman and the Al-Kifah Refugee Center and will later be given a long prison term for involvement in the “Landmarks” plot (see June 24, 1993). He makes several trips to Europe in 1992-1993, raising over $150,000 to fund a Pennsylvania training camp (see Late 1992-Early 1993). After one trip to Vienna, Austria (where TWRA has its headquarters), he returns to the US with $20,000 hidden in his pants to avoid the scrutiny of US customs officers. [United Press International, 8/2/1995] At the time, 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). Hampton-El also travels to Bosnia around this time. [Kohlmann, 2004, pp. 73-74]
Clement Rodney Hampton-El, one of the 1993 “Landmarks” bombers (see June 24, 1993), is summoned to the Saudi Embassy in Washington and told that wealthy Saudis are sponsoring fighters in Bosnia. Hampton-El has longstanding links to the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO), which is closely tied to the Saudi government (see October 12, 2001). He is given $150,000 to recruit and train people in the US to fight in Bosnia. [Schindler, 2007, pp. 121-122] He starts a militant training camp in Pennsylvania that same month (see December 1992-Early February 1993) and gets $150,000 overseas from a bin Laden linked charity front (it is not known if this is the same $150,000 or additional money) (see Late 1992-Early 1993). The Saudi embassy also introduces him to a radical imam named Bilal Philips. Philips, a Canadian citizen and author on Islamic topics, has been employed by the Saudi government since early 1991 to proselytize among US soldiers stationed in Saudi Arabia (see March-September 1991). Philips gives Hampton-El a list of likely candidates who are ex-US soldiers that Philips recently helped convert to Islam. [Schindler, 2007, pp. 121-122] That same month, 14 ex-US soldiers go to Bosnia to fight and train there (see December 1992-June 1993). They are led by double agent Ali Mohamed, who, like Hampton-El, is closely tied to the Al-Kifah Refugee Center in New York.
The Independent will report in 1998, “In December 1992, a US army official met one of the Afghan veterans from Al-Kifah [Refugee Center] and offered help with a covert operation to support the Muslims in Bosnia, funded with Saudi money, according to one of those jailed for assisting with the New York bombings. But that effort quickly disintegrated, leaving a great deal of bad feeling.” [Independent, 11/1/1998] More details about this are not known. However, the plan may not have necessarily failed because it will later be reported that that very same month, double agent Ali Mohamed, an-ex US Special Forces soldier, is part of a 14-man al-Qaeda team made up of retired US military personnel that enters Bosnia through Croatia to train and arm mujaheddin fighters there in 1992 (see December 1992-June 1993). Mohamed is also closely tied to the Al-Kifah Refugee Center, which is located in Brooklyn, New York (see 1987-1989). Al-Kifah is closely tied to both al-Qaeda and the CIA (see 1986-1993). Also that same month, a Bosnian charity front largely funded by Saudi money begins paying for a militant training camp in Pennsylvania that trains some of those later arrested for roles in the New York bombing (see December 1992-Early February 1993).
Double agent Ali Mohamed spends much of 1992 training al-Qaeda recruits in Afghanistan. But he also gives specialized training in Sudan, Bosnia, and other conflict zones. Using the alias Abu ‘Abdallah, he is part of a 14-man al-Qaeda team made up of retired US military personnel that enters Bosnia through Croatia to train and arm mujaheddin fighters there. Apparently this will come to light in a 1998 trial in Egypt. [Gunaratna, 2003, pp. 41, 150, 337] The training takes place at Meskovic, a village near the town of Tuzla. The 14-man team are smuggled into Bosnia one by one in December 1992. The team is said to be sponsored by a “mosque in Newark, New Jersey.” [Associated Press, 12/3/1995] Mohamed regularly trained militants at the Al-Kifah Refugee Center, an al-Qaeda
front in the US (see 1987-1989), and there was a mosque associated to it in Newark. This effort takes place at a time when Al-Kifah is sending many US-based militants to fight in Bosnia (see 1992). It will later be alleged that a US Army official met with people at Al-Kifah in December 1992 and offered to help with a covert operation to support Muslims in Bosnia (see December 1992). Twelve of the Americans leave within two months after training a group of 25 mujaheddin in insurgency warfare. But Mohamed and another American only known by the code name Abu Musa remain at Meskovic until June 1993, occasionally accompanying the mujaheddin on attacks behind Serb lines. [Associated Press, 12/3/1995]
The Independent reports, “United Nations officials and senior Western military officers believe some of the worst recent killings in Sarajevo, including the massacre of at least 16 people in a bread queue, were carried out by the city’s mainly Muslim defenders - not Serb besiegers - as a propaganda ploy to win world sympathy and military intervention. The view has been expressed in confidential reports circulating at UN headquarters in New York, and in classified briefings to US policymakers in Washington. All suggest that Sarajevo’s defenders, mainly Muslims but including Croats and a number of Serb residents, staged several attacks on their own people in the hope of dramatizing the city’s plight in the face of insuperable Serbian odds. They emphasize, however, that these attacks, though bloody, were a tiny minority among regular city bombardments by Serbian forces.” The reports claim the following events were likely committed by the Bosnian Muslims:
The bombing of a bread line in Sarajevo on May 27, 1992.
A mortar attack on July 17, 1992, hitting a bunker where British minister Douglas Hurd was meeting with Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic. Ten bystanders were killed or wounded.
An August 4, 1992, explosion at a cemetery while two orphans were being buried.
The August 13, 1992, death of ABC News producer David Kaplan near Sarajevo. One UN military officer says it would have been impossible the bullet that killed him was fired by a sniper from distant Serbian positions. “That shot came in horizontal to the ground. Somebody was down at ground level.”
A Ukrainian soldier killed in Sarajevo on December 3, 1992, was similarly shot by small arms fire which would imply the Bosnian Muslims.
The UN officials behind these reports claim that are not trying to exonerate the Serbs, who also have been killing many in sniper attacks, mortar rounds, and so forth. “But they expressed fears that the ‘self-inflicted’ attacks may not augur well for existing UN forces or for additional Western troops, including Britons, who have to serve there.” [Independent, 8/22/1992]
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).
Albanian drug smugglers are found to be playing a prominent role in funding the Muslim arms buildup in Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo, and Macedonia. In addition to small arms and machine guns, the criminal arms deals include surface-to-surface missiles and helicopters. [Independent, 12/10/1993; San Francisco Chronicle, 6/10/1994]
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).
Bin Laden visits Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic in Sarajevo. He sponsors some fighters from Arabic countries to fight on the Muslims’ side in Bosnia. [New York Times, 10/20/2003] Izetbegovic gives bin Laden a Bosnian passport the same year as a gesture of appreciation for his support (see 1993). A CIA report in 1996 will conclude bin Laden did visit the Balkans region in 1993, though it will not definitively state he went to Bosnia. [Gunaratna, 2003, pp. 176, 340] Bin Laden will also visit Izetbegovic in 1994 (see November 1994 and 1994).
Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic grants Osama bin Laden a Bosnian passport “in recognition of his followers’ contributions to Mr. Izetbegovic’s quest to create a ‘fundamentalist Islamic republic’ in the Balkans,” according to an account in a Bosnian newspaper in 1999. [Ottawa Citizen, 12/15/2001] Renate Flottau, a reporter for Der Spiegel, will later claim that bin Laden told her he had been given a Bosnian passport when she happened to meet him in Bosnia in 1994 (see 1994). [Schindler, 2007, pp. 123-125]
Ayman al-Zawahiri, head of Islamic Jihad and Al-Qaeda’s second-in-command, sends his brother Mohammed al-Zawahiri to the Balkans to help run the mujaheddin fighters in Bosnia. He is known as a logistics expert and is said to be the military commander of Islamic Jihad. Mohammed works in Bosnia, Croatia, and Albania under the cover of being an International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO) official. He is said to make an extended stay in central Bosnia, where most of the mujaheddin are based, in 1993. He sets up an Islamic Jihad cell in Albania with over a dozen members to support the mujaheddin in Bosnia. [New Yorker, 9/9/2002; Schindler, 2007, pp. 123] Ayman also frequently visits Bosnia (see September 1992 and After) and by 1994 will move to Bulgaria to presumably work with Mohammed to manage operations in the Balkans region (see September 1994-1996).
Al-Hajj Boudella. [Source: Public domain via National Public Radio]Enaam Arnaout, head of the Benevolence International Foundation (BIF) in the US and an al-Qaeda operative, personally arranges for nine elite instructors from the Al-Sadda training camp in Afghanistan to be sent to central Bosnia to train mujaheddin there. One of the trainers is Al-Hajj Boudella, who will become the long-time director of the BIF’s office in Bosnia. He will be arrested shortly after 9/11 and renditioned to the Guantanamo Bay prison in 2002 (see January 18, 2002). [Kohlmann, 2004, pp. 19-20, 255]
According to a senior Western diplomat, in 1993 the Clinton administration learns about the Third World Relief Agency (TWRA) and its real purpose of secretly violating the UN embargo to get weapons to Bosnia (see Mid-1991-1996). But the US takes no action to stop its fund-raising or arms shipments. The diplomat will later say, “We were told [by Washington] to watch them but not interfere. Bosnia was trying to get weapons from anybody, and we weren’t helping much. The least we could do is back off. So we backed off.” TWRA has key offices in Austria and Germany, but authorities in both those countries refrain from shutting down TWRA as well. Austrian officials will later admit that “public pressure to support Bosnia’s Muslims allowed them to turn a blind eye to the agency’s activities.” [Washington Post, 9/22/1996] However, it seems probable that the US found out about TWRA’s smuggling activites earlier, when they were exposed in late 1992 (see September 1992). Further, there are suggestions that the US may have tacitly agreed to the illegal smuggling and even helped with it from the very beginning (see Late 1992-1995). The TWRA is linked to bin Laden and other radical militants, and in 1993 it helps fund bomb plotters in the US, but the FBI does not act on that link (see Late 1992-Early 1993 and Early April 1993).
The Guardian reports in May 1993 that the Benevolence International Foundation (BIF) (then known as Lajnat al-Birr al-Islamiyya) has been closed in Saudi Arabia and “its head, Adel Batterjee, a known political activist, has been detained by the police.” The Guardian hints that the shut down is related to pressure from the Egyptian government. This is possibly the only instance of the Saudis shutting down a charity before 9/11. [Guardian, 5/5/1993] Al-Qaeda will determine later in the year that the shut down was because the Saudis had found a link between BIF and al-Qaeda, but an operative will report that the problem has been fixed. [USA v. Enaam M. Arnaout, 10/6/2003 ] Batterjee is also mentioned in a 1992 New York Times article as the chairman of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), flying wounded Saudis fighting in the Bosnian war and giving them free medical treatment. [New York Times, 12/5/1992] BIF stops operating in Saudi Arabia but expands its operations in the US (see 1992-1993). [USA v. Enaam M. Arnaout, 10/6/2003 ] The FBI will not begin to seriously investigate it until 1998 (see 1998). US agents will raid WAMY offices in 2004 for suspected ties to radical militants (see June 1, 2004).
In 2007, former CIA Director George Tenet will write, “As early as 1993, [the CIA] had declared bin Laden to be a significant financier backer of Islamic terrorist movements. We knew he was funding paramilitary training of Arab religious militants in such far-flung places as Bosnia, Egypt, Kashmir, Jordan, Tunisia, Algeria, and Yemen” (see July-August 1993). [Tenet, 2007, pp. 100]
In a 2005 op-ed in The Guardian, British MP and former cabinet minister Michael Meacher will claim that Islamist militants from Pakistan were sent to Bosnia in the early 1990s to fight against Serbia. Citing the Observer Research Foundation, he will claim that about 200 Pakistani Muslims living in Britain were sent to Pakistan, where they trained in camps run by the Pakistani militant group Harkat ul-Ansar (which will change its name to Harkat ul-Mujahedeen after being banned by the US a few years later). The Pakistani ISI assisted with their training. They then joined Harkat ul-Ansar forces in Bosnia “with the full knowledge and complicity of the British and American intelligence agencies.” [Guardian, 9/10/2005] Interestingly, Saeed Sheikh, who will later be accused of involvement in the 9/11 attacks and the murder of reporter Daniel Pearl, follows this pattern. He left Britain to go to Bosnia with Harkat ul-Ansar, and also attended training camps partly run by the ISI (see April 1993 and June 1993-October 1994). There are also allegations that he worked with British intelligence (see Before April 1993).
Nawaf Alhazmi (left), and Khalid Almihdhar (right). [Source: FBI]Of all the 9/11 hijackers, Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar have the longest records of involvement with al-Qaeda. CIA Director Tenet calls them al-Qaeda veterans. According to the CIA, Alhazmi first travels to Afghanistan in 1993 as a teenager, then fights in Bosnia with Alhazmi (see 1995). Almihdhar makes his first visit to Afghanistan training camps in 1996, and then fights in Chechnya in 1997. Both swear loyalty to bin Laden around 1998. Alhazmi fights in Afghanistan against the Northern Alliance with his brother, Salem Alhazmi. He fights in Chechnya, probably in 1998. [Observer, 9/23/2001; ABC News, 1/9/2002; US Congress, 6/18/2002; Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002; US Congress, 7/24/2003, pp. 131 ] He then returns to Saudi Arabia in early 1999 where he shares information about the 1998 US embassy bombings. However it is not clear what information he disclosed to whom or where he obtained this information. [US Congress, 7/24/2003, pp. 131 ] It is possible that some or all of this information came from the NSA, which is intercepting some of Alhazmi’s phone calls at this time (see Early 1999).
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]
A Pakistani vessel carrying ten containers of arms, destined for the Bosnian army, is intercepted in the Adriatic Sea. [Wiebes, 2003, pp. 195] During this same time frame (between March 1992 and May 1993), Pakistan also airlifts sophisticated anti-tank guided missiles to the Bosnian Muslims, according to the later testimony of Lt. Gen. Javed Nasir, who is head of Pakistan’s ISI during this period. [South Asia Tribune (Great Falls, VA), 12/23/2002]
Lord David Owen, European Union peace negotiator for the Bosnian conflict, will later write in a book, “Around this time [January 1993] the UN had clear evidence that Muslim forces would from time to time shell the airport to stop the relief flights and refocus world attention on the siege of Sarajevo. As the Deputy Commander in Chief US European Command from 1992 to 1995 [Gen. Charles Boyd] describes it, “The press and some governments, including that of the United States, usually attribute all such fire to the Serbs, but no seasoned observer in Sarajevo doubts for a moment that Muslim forces have found it in their interest to shell friendly targets. In this case, the shelling usually closes the airport for a time, driving up the price of black-market goods that enter the city via routes controlled by Bosnian army commanders and government officials.” [Owen, 1997, pp. 262] In September 1994, it is reported the UN believe the Muslim Bosnians again shelled their own Sarajevo airport on August 18, 1994. UN spokesman Lieutenant- Colonel Pierre Duclos says, “The result of all our investigations show the shell clearly came from [Bosnian] government lines,” he said. Another UN official says, “This was a direct and intentional targeting of the airport.” [Independent, 9/6/1994]
In June 1993, Abu Ubaidah Yahya will tell the New York Times that early in the year he went to Bosnia with several other Muslims from the New York region to help embattled Bosnian Muslims “with technical advice and medical aid.” [New York Times, 6/26/1993] Yahya is an ex-US Marine connected to numerous figures in the 1993 WTC bombing and “Landmarks” bombing plots, and US intelligence had him under surveillance since January 1993 (see January 7-13, 1993), although how intensive the surveillance was is unknown. The FBI is aware that Yahya repeatedly travels in the spring of 1993 to Vienna, Austria, to pick up money from the Bosnian-linked Third World Relief Agency charity front (see Early April 1993), so presumably he goes to nearby Bosnia on some or all of those trips. It is likely he and his group actually go to Bosnia to fight, since one of his associates told an FBI informant that Yahya and a group of about ten men he trained were going to fight in Bosnia once their training session was over, and the training ended in February 1993 (see December 1992-Early February 1993). Saudis also gave Yahya’s close associate Clement Rodney Hampton-El a considerable amount of money to train militants in the US to fight in Bosnia (see December 1992). [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 113] Yahya is the security chief of the Al-Kifah Refugee Center, a charity front linked to both al-Qaeda and the CIA (see 1986-1993). A group of US militants linked to Al-Kifah go fight in Bosnia starting in December 1992, but this must be a different group since Yahya is still training his group for another two months (see December 1992-June 1993 and December 1992-Early February 1993).
The Bosnian Croats and Muslims have been fighting Bosnian Serb forces and are slowly losing. The Serbs control about 70 percent of Bosnia. But despite this, the Croats and Muslims begin fighting each other as well. [Time, 12/31/1995]
Saeed Sheikh during his London School of Economics days. [Source: CNN]Saeed Sheikh, a British citizen and student at the London School of Economics, goes to Bosnia on a trip sponsored by the “Convoy of Mercy” [New York Times, 2/25/2002] , a front for the newly formed militant Islamic fundamentalist group, Harkat ul-Ansar. [Jane's International Security News, 9/20/2001] There he joins Harkat ul-Ansar. [New York Times, 2/25/2002] Aukai Collins, who will meet Saeed Sheikh in a camp in Afghanistan near the border with Pakistan some months later (see June 1993-October 1994), will later confirm that Saeed is a member of Harkat ul-Ansar. [Collins, 2003, pp. 33] Harkat ul-Ansar will change its name to Harkat ul-Mujahedeen in 1997 after Harkat ul-Ansar is named a terrorist organization by the US State Department. [South Asia Analysis Group, 2/18/2002] Collins will also claim Harkat ul-Ansar was funded by bin Laden. [South Asia Analysis Group, 2/18/2002]
The Bosnian Serbs have the upper hand in their war against Bosnian Muslims and there is international concern that large numbers of Muslim civilians could be killed. The UN Security Council declares six “safe areas” for Bosnian Muslims: Sarajevo, Tuzla, Bihac, Srebrenica, Zepa and Gorazde. However, despite UN promises, in 1995 the Serbs will begin shelling the Muslim safe areas and conquer Srebrenica and Zepa. [Time, 12/31/1995]
Aafia Siddiqui. [Source: Public domain]The Al-Kifah Refugee Center is bin Laden’s largest fundraising group in the US and has offices in many cities (see 1986-1993 and 1985-1989). Counterterrorism expert Steven Emerson will later call it “al-Qaeda’s operational headquarters in the United States.” [Emerson, 2006, pp. 436] In late March 1993, Newsweek will report that “virtually every principal figure implicated in the World Trade Center bombing” that took place the month before (see February 26, 1993) has a connection to the Al-Kifah branch in Brooklyn, New York. [Newsweek, 3/29/1993] The Brooklyn branch quietly shuts itself down. But other branches stay open (see Shortly After February 26, 1993-1994) and the Boston branch appears to take over for the Brooklyn branch. In April 1993, it reincorporates under the new name Care International (which is not connected with a large US charity based in Atlanta with the same name). Emerson will later comment, “The continuity between the two organizations was obvious to anyone who scratched the surface.” For instance, Care takes over the publication of Al-Kifah’s pro-jihad newsletter, Al Hussam. [Emerson, 2006, pp. 437] It also shares the same website and street address as the Al-Kifah Boston branch it took over. [Wall Street Journal, 11/21/2001] By the time of the WTC bombing, Al-Kifah is doing most of its fund raising for the mujaheddin fighting in Bosnia. For instance, one month after the bombing, a member of Al-Kifah/Care in Boston named Aafia Siddiqui sends Muslims newsgroups an e-mail pledge form asking for support for Bosnian widows and orphans. Siddiqui, a university student in Boston for most of the 1990s, is well known to Boston’s Muslim community as a dedicated Islamic activist. One imam will later recall, “She attended many conferences. Whenever there was an event, she would come.” But it appears Siddiqui is also a prominent al-Qaeda operative, working as a “fixer” for Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. Despite considerable suspicious evidence against her discovered shortly after 9/11, she will disappear in Pakistan in 2003 (see Late September 2001-March 2003). [Vanity Fair, 3/2005] Two long-time Care employees are also be long-time employees of Ptech, a Boston-based computer firm formed in 1994 that will be raided in 2002 by the FBI for suspected radical militant ties. One of them writes many articles advocating Islamic jihad (see 1994). Emerson and his Investigative Project on Terrorism research team begins researching Care International in 1993, targeting it and several employees for suspected radical militant ties. The team discovers some checks made out to Care have notations on the back such as, “For jihad only.” [Telegram and Gazette, 9/11/2006] Presumably Emerson’s team shares what they learn with US intelligence, as his research on other matters lead to US government investigations around the same time (see for instance October 1994-2001). Al-Kifah branches in the US are connected to the charity Maktab al-Khidamat (MAK) overseas, which is also sometimes called Al-Kifah. In 1996, a secret CIA report will assert that the main MAK office in Pakistan funds at least nine militant training camps in Afghanistan and has ties to bin Laden and other militant groups and leaders. Furthermore, it connects this office to the Al-Kifah office in Brooklyn and the 1993 WTC bomber Ramzi Yousef (see January 1996). But the FBI takes no action against any of the remaining Al-Kifah branches in the US before 9/11. The US will officially declare Al-Kifah and/or Maktab al-Khidamat a terrorist financier shortly after 9/11, but by then all the US branches have closed or changed their names (see September 24, 2001). One day after the declaration, a Boston Globe article will make the connection between Care and Al-Kifah, pointing out that Care and the old Al-Kifah branch in Boston share the exact same address. [Boston Globe, 9/26/2001] But the FBI will wait until 2003 before raiding the Care offices and shutting it down. The FBI will later state that Care raised about $1.7 million from 1993 to 2003. [Telegram and Gazette, 9/11/2006] Al-Kifah has had a murky connection with the CIA, at least in its early days. Shortly after 9/11, Newsweek will comment that Al-Kifah’s Brooklyn office “doubled as a recruiting post for the CIA seeking to steer fresh troops to the mujahedin.” [Newsweek, 10/1/2001]
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.
Richard Holbrooke. [Source: US State Department]Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal urges President Bill Clinton to take the lead in military assistance to Bosnia. Richard Holbrooke, US ambassador to Germany at the time, draws up plans for covert assistance. [Wiebes, 2003, pp. 195]
Kifah Wael Jayyousi. [Source: Robert A. Reeder]A Florida cell of Islamic radicals carries out fundraising, training, and recruitment to support the global jihad movement. The group is monitored by the FBI from the early 1990s, but no action is taken against it until after 9/11. The cell’s most prominent members are Adham Amin Hassoun, Mohammed Hesham Youssef, Kifah Wael Jayyousi, Kassem Daher, and Jose Padilla. Adnan Shukrijumah may also be involved (see (Spring 2001)).
Both Hassoun and Jayyousi are associates of “Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdul-Rahman and the FBI monitors telephone conversations between them and Abdul-Rahman from January 1993 to 1995, at least. After Abdul-Rahman is taken into police custody in July 1993, according to an FBI agent, Jayyousi calls Abdul-Rahman in jail to “update the sheikh with jihad news, many times reading accounts and statements issued directly by terrorist organizations.” [St. Petersburg Times, 11/23/2003; Lance, 2006, pp. 126-8; Associated Press, 4/8/2006; International Herald Tribune, 1/4/2007]
Funds are provided through bank accounts of Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya (the Islamic Group), the Canadian Islamic Association, and Benevolence International Foundation (BIF), for which Hassoun files incorporation papers in Florida. The cell pays out thousands of dollars in checks, some of which are marked “Chechnya”, “Kosovo,” or “for tourism”.
They try to talk in code, but the code is unsophisticated; for example “tourism” apparently means “terrorism”. In addition, they are not very careful and in one conversation overheard by the FBI, which records tens of thousands of their conversations from the early 1990s, one plotter asks another if he has enough “soccer equipment” to “launch an attack on the enemy.” In another, the conspirators discuss a $3,500 purchase of “zucchini” in Lebanon.
Cell members are involved in jihad, through funding or direct participation, in Egypt, Somalia, Bosnia, Chechnya, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Libya, Kosovo, the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, and Azerbaijan.
They are involved with both bin Laden and Chechen leader Ibn Khattab; for example, in one conversation Youssef tells Hassoun that he would be traveling “there at Osama’s and… Khattab’s company.” [Indictment. United States v. Jose Padilla, 11/17/2005 ]
They publish the Islam Report, a radical magazine about jihad. [Associated Press, 4/8/2006]
It is unclear why the FBI monitors the cell for almost a decade before doing anything. However, some of their activities are focused on Bosnia, where the US is turning a blind eye, or even actively assisting Islamic militants fighting on the Bosnian side (see 1992-1995 and April 27, 1994). The cell is broken up in the months after 9/11, and Hassoun, Jayyousi, and Padilla are sent for trial, which begins in 2007. [International Herald Tribune, 1/4/2007]
Entity Tags: Mohamed Hesham Youssef, Adnan Shukrijumah, Adham Amin Hassoun, Kifah Wael Jayyousi, Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, Omar Abdul-Rahman, Kassem Daher, Jose Padilla, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Canadian Islamic Association, Benevolence International Foundation
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
In late 1993, the FBI discovers that WTC bomber Ramzi Yousef used a mosque in Milan, Italy, known as the Islamic Cultural Institute, as a logistical base (see Late 1993-1994). The Italian government begins investigating the mosque and soon discovers that it is the main European headquarters for Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, a radical Egyptian militant group, and is also the logistical base for mujaheddin traveling to fight in Bosnia. The mosque is run by Anwar Shaaban, who has a close working relationship with Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, and who also stays in regular contact with al-Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri. Shaaban runs a training camp thirty miles outside of Milan where fighters heading to Bosnia can practice using weapons and explosives. The mosque also helps smuggle men, money, and weapons to Bosnia. [Schindler, 2007, pp. 163-164] On June 25, 1995, Italian police raid the mosque and over 70 other locations in northern Italy. Seventeen people are indicted and eleven of them are arrested, but that is only a fraction of the hundreds investigated. Inside the mosque, police find forgery tools, letters to wanted radicals around the world, and hundreds of false documents. Plots to bomb targets in other countries and a US target elsewhere in Italy are averted. Shaaban escapes arrest, as he had already left the country, but he is killed in Croatia a short time later (see December 14, 1995). [United Press International, 6/26/1995; Vidino, 2006, pp. 216-218] But the Islamic Cultural Institute will soon reopen and continue to be a focal point for radical militants in Europe. It will be linked the 9/11 attacks and other violent plots (see Late 1998-September 11, 2001).
Anwar Shaaban. [Source: Evan Kohlmann]The Islamic Cultural Institute mosque in Milan, Italy is dominated by Al-Gama’a al-Islamiya, the Egyptian militant group led by Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman. The imam of the mosque, Anwar Shaaban, is a leader of that group and also a leader of the mujaheddin efforts in Bosnia. The Islamic Cultural Institute serves as a transit and logistical base for mujaheddin coming or going to Bosnia (see Late 1993-December 14, 1995). After the 1993 WTC bombing, US investigators will discover heavy phone traffic between the Milan mosque and the Jersey City mosque run by Abdul-Rahman. Furthermore, they learn that bomber mastermind Ramzi Yousef used the Milan mosque as a logistical base as well. [Chicago Tribune, 10/22/2001] Yousef also prayed at the Milan mosque prior to the WTC bombing. [Gunaratna, 2003, pp. 171] Shaaban is a close friend of Talaat Fouad Qassem, another leader of Al-Gama’a al-Islamiya and one of the highest ranking leaders of the mujaheddin fighting in Bosnia. Qassem is directing the flow of volunteers to Bosnia while living in political asylum in Denmark (see 1990). [Kohlmann, 2004, pp. 25] In April 1994, seven Arab men living in Denmark, including Qassem, are arrested. US prosecutors will later claim that fingerprints on documents and videotapes seized from the men match fingerprints on bomb manuals that Ahmad Ajaj was carrying when he entered the US with Yousef (see September 1, 1992). A raid on one apartment in Denmark uncovers bomb formulas, bomb making chemical, sketches of attack targets, some videotapes of Abdul-Rahman’s sermons, and a pamphlet claiming responsibility for the WTC bombing and promising more attacks. Also, phone records and documents found in Abdul-Rahman’s Jersey City apartment show the men in Denmark were communicating regularly with Abdul-Rahman. [New York Times, 4/15/1995] But no one in either Milan or Denmark will be charged with a role in the WTC bombing. Danish police will later say that none of the seized documents indicated that the Arab men personally took part in the bombing. The men all are released and ironically, two of them are granted political asylum in Denmark because they are members of Al-Gama’a al-Islamiya, which the Danish consider to be a persecuted group. [Associated Press, 6/28/1995] In 1995, an Italian magistrate will issue arrest warrants for Shaaban and 60 other extremists (see Late 1993-December 14, 1995), but Shaaban will flee to Bosnia, where he will die of bullet wounds in unexplained circumstances (see December 14, 1995). [Chicago Tribune, 10/22/2001] The US government will later call the Islamic Cultural Institute al-Qaeda’s main logistical base in Europe and some evidence will link figures connected to it to the 9/11 plot (see Late 1998-September 11, 2001).
The British newspaper The Independent publishes the first interview of Osama bin Laden in Western countries. Veteran journalist Robert Fisk interviews bin Laden in Sudan, where bin Laden is ostensibly living a peaceful life. Fisk does note that the “Western embassy circuit in Khartoum has suggested that some of the ‘Afghans’ whom this Saudi entrepreneur flew to Sudan are now busy training for further jihad wars in Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt,” but generally bin Laden is portrayed as a former mujaheddin fighter turned peaceful businessman. This is reflected in the title of the article: “Anti-Soviet Warrior Puts His Army on the Road to Peace.” Bin Laden talks some about his role in the Soviet-Afghan war, boasting that he helped thousands of mujaheddin go there to fight. Fisk comments, “When the history of the Afghan resistance movement is written, Mr. bin Laden’s own contribution to the mujaheddin - and the indirect result of his training and assistance - may turn out to be a turning-point in the recent history of militant fundamentalism…” Fisk tells bin Laden that his name has recently been mentioned by Muslim fighters in Bosnia. Bin Laden acknowledges his influence there, but complains about how difficult it is for fighters to cross into Bosnia. [Independent, 12/6/1993]
Renate Flottau. [Source: Public domain]Renate Flottau, a reporter for Der Spiegel, later claims she meets Osama bin Laden in Bosnia some time in 1994. She is in a waiting room of Bosnian Muslim President Alija Izetbegovic’s office in order to interview him when she runs into bin Laden. He gives her a business card but at the time she does not recognize the name. They speak for about ten minutes and he talks to her in excellent English. He asks no questions but reveals that he is in Bosnia to help bring Muslim fighters into the country and that he has a Bosnian passport. Izetbegovic’s staffers seem displeased that bin Laden is speaking to a Western journalist. One tells her that bin Laden is “here every day and we don’t know how to make him go away.” She sees bin Laden at Izetbegovic’s office again one week later. This time he is accompanied by several senior members of Izetbegovic’s political party that she recognizes, including members from the secret police. She later calls the encounter “incredibly bizarre.” [Schindler, 2007, pp. 123-125] A journalist for the London Times will witness Flottau’s first encounter with bin Laden and testify about it in a later court trial (see November 1994). Members of the SDA, Izetbegovic’s political party, will later deny the existence of such visits. But one Muslim politician, Sejfudin Tokic, speaker of the upper house of the Bosnian parliament, will say that such visits were “not a fabrication,” and that photos exist of bin Laden and Izetbegovic together. One such photo will later appear in a local magazine. Author John Schindler will say the photo is “fuzzy but appears to be genuine.” [Schindler, 2007, pp. 124-125, 342] According to one account, bin Laden continues to visit the Balkan region as late as 1996. [Wall Street Journal (Europe), 1/11/2001]
In a 2004 book, former counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke will mention that by 1994, bin Laden’s name “popped up in intelligence in connection with terrorist activity” in Bosnia. “European and US intelligence services began to trace the funding and support of [mujaheddin fighters in Bosnia] to bin Laden in Sudan” and to support networks in Western Europe. However, he also says that “What we saw unfold in Bosnia was a guidebook to the bin Laden network, though we didn’t recognize it as such at the time.” He states that “The hard-pressed Bosnians clearly wished they could do without these uncontrollable savages, but Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic decided to take aid where he could.” [Clarke, 2004, pp. 96, 137] Author John Schindler, who was involved in the Bosnian war as an NSA intelligence officer, will later note Clarke’s comments and say, “even professional counterterrorists, not usually a wishful thinking bunch, have shown an unwillingness to admit that [Bosnia] invited the mujaheddin, for political as much as military purposes, and that they were quite welcome guests of [Izetbegovic’s ruling party].” [Schindler, 2007, pp. 191]
Intelligence services operating in the Balkans, especially US intelligence, become increasingly politicized and are under pressure to produce reports with a pro-Bosnian, anti-Serb slant. [Wiebes, 2003, pp. 86, 141] For instance, one CIA report in 1995 blaming the Bosnian Serbs for the vast majority of the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia will later be accused of distorting the facts to fit an anti-Serb slant (see March 9, 1995).
The US begins flying spy planes over Serbia and Bosnia. In March 1994, the CIA begins flying Gnat-750 drone aircraft from Glader, a remote Albanian air force base in north-central Albania. [Associated Press, 5/7/1994] In December 1994, the CIA begins flying more drone aircraft from the Croatian island of Brac. [Associated Press, 2/3/1995] In July 1995, the US begins using the Predator remote spy drone over Bosnia, from the Glader base. [Associated Press, 7/21/1995] Such surveillance information is allegedly shared with Croat and Muslim forces, allowing them to bypass Serb defensive positions in battle. The US officially denies the existence of all these flights since the US is supposed to be neutral in the war. [Observer, 11/5/1995]
Bosnian Muslims and Croats have been fighting each other, as well as Bosnian Serbs, for the past year (see March 1993). But at the urging of the US, a peace deal is agreed to and the Muslim federation of Croatia and Bosnia is formed. Croats and Muslims now concentrate on fighting the Serbs in Bosnia. [Time, 12/31/1995; Wiebes, 2003, pp. 165-166]
Peter Galbraith. [Source: CBC]US President Bill Clinton and National Security Adviser Anthony Lake decide that they will give the Bosnians a “green light” for the arms supply pipeline from Iran to Croatia. The CIA is not consulted. Lake passes the word on to US ambassador to Croatia Peter Galbraith by “cleverly” telling him that they have “no instructions” for him with regard to the Iranian arms shipments. [Wiebes, 2003, pp. 167- 168] Two days later, Galbraith passes the “no instructions” message on to Croatian President Franjo Tudjman, making it clear that the US government is giving him a green light for Croatia to conduct arms deals with Iran. [APF Reporter, 1997]
Assistant Secretary of State for European and Canadian Affairs Richard Holbrooke persuades the State Department to license Military Professional Resources Inc. (MPRI), a private military contractor, to provide training to the Croatian army. [Ripley, 1999, pp. 81-82, 90; Scotsman, 3/2/2001] According to MPRI information officer Joseph Allred, the firm exists so that “the US can have influence as part of its national strategy on other nations without employing its own army.” [New American, 5/10/1999; Serbian National Federation, 8/1999]
Ayman al-Zawahiri. [Source: Interpol]In 1996 it will be reported that the Egyptian government has been investigating Ayman al-Zawahiri and has determined he has been living in Sofia, Bulgaria, since September 1994 under an alias. Al-Zawahiri, head of Islamic Jihad and al-Qaeda’s second-in-command, is considered one of Egypt’s top enemies. The Egyptians pass on details of al-Zawahiri’s whereabouts to the Bulgarian government, but Bulgaria has no extradition treaty with Egypt and he is not believed to have broken any Bulgarian laws. Al-Zawahiri is living there mainly to help manage the mujaheddin effort in nearby Bosnia. Prior to that, it is believed he mostly lived in Switzerland for about a year. [BBC, 2/29/1996; Intelligence Newsletter, 3/21/1996] A Wall Street Journal article will later claim that al-Zawahiri was in charge of al-Qaeda’s Balkans operations, running training camps, money-laundering, and drug running networks in the region. Supposedly there was an “elaborate command-and-control center” in Sofia, Bulgaria. [Wall Street Journal (Europe), 1/11/2001] His brother Mohammed al-Zawahiri also helps manage operations in the region, mostly from a base in Albania (see 1993). With the war in Bosnia over, Ayman al-Zawahiri will attempt to enter Chechnya in late 1996, only to be arrested and held by the Russians (see December 1, 1996-June 1997).
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.
Pressure from the Clinton administration for NATO air strikes in Bosnia leads to a crisis within the NATO alliance. Ivo H. Daalder, who is responsible for coordinating Bosnia policy on the National Security Council, later writes: “By Thanksgiving 1994, the differences within the NATO that had simmered for months below the surface had come to a full boil, creating the worst crisis within the Atlantic alliance since 1956… Faced with the possibility that NATO might be torn asunder by the rift over Bosnia policy, the administration decided to put NATO unity first and abandon any effort to convince the allies or the United Nations that air strikes remained necessary to turn the military tide in Bosnia.” [Daalder, 2000, pp. 33]
Eve-Ann Prentice. [Source: BBC]In 2006, London Times reporter Eve-Ann Prentice will testify under oath during Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic’s international war crimes tribunal that she saw Osama bin Laden go into a meeting with Muslim Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic. Prentice was there with Der Speigel reporter Renate Flottau waiting for an interview with Izetbegovic when bin Laden walked by (see 1994). Prentice will later recall, “[T]here was a very important looking Arabic looking person is the best way I can describe it who came in and went ahead just before I was supposed to go in to interview, and I was curious because it obviously looked as if it was somebody very, very important, and they were shown straight through to Mr. Izetbegovic’s office.” Curious, Prentice asked around and found out from Flottau and another eyewitness that the person was bin Laden, then Prentice confirmed this for herself when she later saw pictures of bin Laden. Interestingly, the judge at Milosevic’s trial will cut off questions about the incident and there will be no mentions of it by journalists covering the trial, though a transcript of the exchange will eventually appear on the United Nation’s International Criminal Tribunal website. [International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, 2/3/2006] Prentice apparently will no longer be reporting by 2006, but in 2002 she mentioned in passing in a Times article, “Osama bin Laden visited the Balkans several times in the 1980s and 1990s and is widely believed by Serbs to have aided Muslims in the Bosnian war and the Kosovo conflict.” [London Times, 3/5/2002] Bin Laden also visited Izetbegovic in 1993 (see 1993).
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]
Extremist imam Abu Hamza al-Masri makes three trips to Bosnia to meet the mujaheddin there. Before leaving Britain, where he lives, he changes his name and travels on a passport in his new name, as he is worried about surveillance by the security services. He cannot actually fight, due to injuries suffered in Afghanistan (see 1991-Late 1993), but, after entering the country with a relief convoy, Abu Hamza spends time with groups of radical fighters, in particular those from Algeria. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 30-31]
9/11 hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi fight in the Bosnian civil war against the Serbs. [US Congress, 7/24/2003, pp. 131 ] The 9/11 Commission will later say that the two “traveled together to fight in Bosnia in a group that journeyed to the Balkans in 1995,” but will not give any other details. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 155] Ramzi bin al-Shibh fights there too. A witness will later recount traveling to Hamburg from Bosnia with bin al-Shibh in 1996 (see (1995-1996)). [Schindler, 2007, pp. 281-282] 9/11 planner Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) fights in Bosnia in 1995 as well (see 1992-1995), but it is not known if any of them are ever there together. Under interrogation, KSM will say that in 1999 he did not know Almihdhar. However, doubts will be expressed about the reliability of statements made by KSM in detention, because of the methods used to extract them (see June 16, 2004). [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, 7/31/2006, pp. 17 ] Alhazmi and Almihdhar will later go on to fight in Chechnya (see 1993-1999).
Beginning in 1995, evidence begins to appear in the media suggesting that a Saudi charity named the Muwafaq Foundation has ties to radical militants. The foundation is run by a Saudi multimillionaire named Yassin al-Qadi.
In 1995, media reports claim that Muwafaq is being used to fund mujaheddin fighters in Bosnia (see 1991-1995).
Also in 1995, Pakistani police raid the foundation’s Pakistan branch in the wake of the arrest of WTC bomber Ramzi Yousef (see February 7, 1995). The head of the branch is held for several months, and then the branch is closed down. [Chicago Tribune, 10/29/2001]
A secret CIA report in January 1996 says that Muwafaq is has ties to the Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya militant group and helps fund mujaheddin fighting in Bosnia and at least one training camp in Afghanistan (see January 1996).
In February 1996, bin Laden says in an interview that he supports the Muwafaq branch in Zagreb, Croatia (which is close to the fighting in neighboring Bosnia). [Guardian, 10/16/2001]
A senior US official will later claim that in 1998, the National Commercial Bank, one of the largest banks in Saudi Arabia, ran an audit and determined that the Muwafaq Foundation gave $3 million to al-Qaeda. Both al-Qadi and the bank later claim that the audit never existed. Al-Qadi asserts he has no ties to any terrorist group. [Chicago Tribune, 10/29/2001] In 2003, former counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke will elaborate on this allegation, saying to a Senate committee, “Al-Qadi was the head of Muwafaq, a Saudi ‘relief organization’ that reportedly transferred at least $3 million, on behalf of Khalid bin Mahfouz, to Osama bin Laden and assisted al-Qaeda fighters in Bosnia.” [US Congress, 10/22/2003] (Note that bin Mahfouz, a Saudi billionaire, denies that he ever had any sort of tie to bin Laden or al-Qaeda and has not been officially charged of such ties anywhere.) [Bin Mahfouz Info, 11/22/2005]
Al-Qadi will claim that he shut down Muwafaq in 1996, but it is referred to in UN and German charity documents as doing work in Sudan and Bosnia through 1998. [Guardian, 10/16/2001; BBC, 10/20/2001]
Shortly after 9/11, the US Treasury Department will claim that Muwafaq funded Maktab al-Khidamat (MAK)/Al-Kifah (the predecessor of al-Qaeda), al-Qaeda, Hamas, and Abu Sayyaf (a Philippines militant group with ties to al-Qaeda), and other militant Islamic groups. [FrontPage Magazine, 6/17/2005]
However, despite all of these alleged connections, and the fact that the US will officially label al-Qadi a terrorism financier shortly after 9/11 (see October 12, 2001), the Muwafaq Foundation has never been officially declared a terrorist supporting entity. An October 2001 New York Times article will say that the reason, “administration officials said, was the inability of United States officials to locate the charity or determine whether it is still in operation.” But the same article will also quote a news editor, who calls Muwafaq’s board of directors “the creme de la creme of Saudi society.” [New York Times, 10/13/2001]
Entity Tags: Yassin al-Qadi, United Nations, US Department of the Treasury, Osama bin Laden, Hamas, Muwafaq Foundation, National Commercial Bank, Abu Sayyaf, Khalid bin Mahfouz, Switzerland, Al-Qaeda
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
Reda Seyam. [Source: Bild]9/11 hijacker associate Ramzi bin al-Shibh fights in Bosnia. Exact details are unknown, but bin al-Shibh is well known in Islamist militant circles in Bosnia at this time. The ex-wife of Reda Seyam will later recount traveling to Hamburg from Bosnia with bin al-Shibh and Seyam in 1996. Seyam has never been convicted of any serious charge, but he is widely regarded by intelligence officials as one of al-Qaeda’s most important operatives in Europe. During this time period, Seyam works at a car rental agency in Bosnia that is both widely regarded as an al-Qaeda front and is owned by a company, Twaik Group, that will later be seen by German intelligence as a front of the Saudi intelligence agency. Also during this time, the Twaik Group deposits hundreds of thousands of dollars into the bank accounts of Mamoun Darkazanli, who is an associate of bin al-Shibh and other members of the Hamburg cell (see 1995-1998). [Chicago Tribune, 3/31/2004; Schindler, 2007, pp. 281-282] Future 9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar, future 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, and Hamburg cell member Mohammed Haydar Zammar also fight in Bosnia around this time (see 1995, 1992-1995, and 1991-1996), but it is unknown if they meet bin al-Shibh or each other.
Bosnian leaders, including Deputy President Ejup Ganic, tell the BBC that their war strategy is to use anti-Serb propaganda in the mass media to force a massive military intervention. [Ripley, 1999, pp. 33]
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]
It is revealed in the New York Times that a CIA report completed earlier in the year has concluded that 90 percent of the “ethnic cleansing” in Bosnia has been carried out by the Bosnian Serbs, and that leading politicians in Bosnian Serbia and possibly Serbia itself almost certainly played a role in these war crimes. One anonymous US official says: “To those who think the parties are equally guilty, this report is pretty devastating. The scale of what the Serbs did is so different.” [New York Times, 3/9/1995] However, three months later, the Telegraph will report that “authoritative diplomatic sources in Europe” believe that pro-Bosnian Muslim factions in Washington, DC, including parts of the CIA, are “blatantly distorting” intelligence summaries to push for US intervention on the Bosnian Muslim side. [Daily Telegraph, 6/2/1995] Peter Viggers, a senior Conservative British member of Parliament, will claim the report was leaked at a diplomatically important moment to influence policy. Viggers is a member of the British House of Commons Defence Committee and will say the report conflicted with the committee’s own experience in visits to Bosnia, where it was clear that ethnic cleansing had been carried out by all sides. [Daily Telegraph, 6/3/1995] The 1999 documentary Yugoslavia: The Avoidable War later shown on the History Channel will claim that the CIA report only looked at areas held by the Bosnian Serbs and that international agencies later determined that 40 percent of the war refugees were Serbian, suggesting that Serbians were the target of a similar percentage of “ethnic cleansing” war crimes. [George Bogdanich, 4/14/2001]
Bosnian boundaries during the four month cease fire in early 1995. The area controlled by Bosnian Muslims and Croats is shown in gray while the area controlled by Bosnian Serbs is shown in white. UN safe zones are circled in red. [Source: Time / Cowan, Castello, Glanton]Serb forces ignore a UN order to remove heavy weapons from the Sarajevo area of Bosnia. NATO aircraft then attack a Serb ammunition depot. The Serbs begin shelling UN protected Muslim safe areas in response (see April-May 1993). Despite the UN protection, Serbs conquer two of the six safe areas, Zepa and Srebrenica, in July (see July 1995). [Time, 12/31/1995]
Nasir Oric. [Source: Reuters / Corbis]Bosnian Serb forces enter Srebrenica, capturing the Dutch peacekeeping forces there. Thousands of Muslim civilians are brutally executed by the Serbs. [Christian Science Monitor, 10/2/1995; Christian Science Monitor, 10/24/1995; New York Review of Books, 9/24/1998; BBC, 6/9/2005] The commander of the Bosnian Muslim forces based in Srebrenica, Nasir Oric, forcibly prevented Muslim civilians from leaving Srebrenica prior to the Serb attack. [Globe and Mail, 7/12/1995] However, Oric and his troops quietly withdrew from Srebrenica just two days before the Serbs arrived, leaving the civilians to fend for themselves. There is fighting between Muslim forces who favor the retreat, and those who want to stay and defend the city. [New York Times, 7/24/1995] The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) will announce in 2005 that they have been able to identify the remains of 2032 victims of the Serb assault. [International Commission on Missing Persons, 6/21/2005]
The differences on Bosnia policy between Madeleine Albright, Anthony Lake, and Richard Holbrooke on the one hand and the Pentagon on the other, are aired at a cabinet meeting. Albright et. al. argue for a firm commitment to military intervention. “They maintained that the stakes went far beyond the particulars in Bosnia. The issue was not one state or two, three, or none. Rather, the issue was US credibility as a world leader, its credibility in NATO, the United Nations, and at home.” Meanwhile, “the Pentagon was most concerned about avoiding a sustained military involvement, and saw in arm, train, and strike the shades of Vietnam.” Clinton comes down firmly on the side of intervention. After the meeting, Anthony Lake is dispatched to Europe to brief US allies on the new policy on Bosnia. [Daalder, 2000, pp. 106 - 110]
On July 26, 1995, the US Senate votes for the US to defy a UN weapons embargo against Bosnia. On August 1, the House of Representatives also votes to defy the embargo. But on August 11, President Clinton vetoes the legislation. According to the Los Angeles Times, he argues that “the measure would backfire by increasing atrocities, torpedoing diplomacy and ultimately converting the complex ethnic war into ‘an American responsibility.’” [CNN, 8/5/1995; Los Angeles Times, 4/5/1996]
“Operation Deliberate Force,” a massive NATO bombing campaign against the Bosnian Serbs, begins. [CNN, 8/31/1995]
German and Austrian police raid the Vienna, Austria, office of the Third World Relief Agency (TWRA). Investigators fill three vans with documents, enabling them to gain a full picture of the illegal weapons network the TWRA has been running. But by this time, TWRA appears to be winding down most of its activities. The need for TWRA’s smuggling routes greatly declined after a direct weapons pipeline opened between Iran and Bosnia with the tacit approval of the US. But the raid results in no charges and TWRA’s Vienna office remains open. One Austrian investigator will later say, “They did a lot of talking here but as long as they did not move weapons through our territory, we could not arrest them.” [Washington Post, 9/22/1996] Authors J. Millard Burr and Robert Collins will later question that rationale, noting that, “The TWRA ledgers, however, gave a full accounting of the transfer of huge sums for arms trafficking through the First Austrian Bank.” The Bosnian government officially shuts down TWRA after the Austrian raid, but in fact it remains open and active in Bosnia, and continuing to ship weapons. In fact, TWRA will still remain open and active there and elsewhere long after 9/11 (see January 25, 2002). The US government has yet to take any official action against TWRA as well. [Burr and Collins, 2006, pp. 143]
The Foreign Military Studies Office publishes a piece by Army Lt. Col. John E. Sray who writes that advocates of a US intervention in Bosnia have formed a “prolific propaganda machine” to increase public support for deploying NATO forces to Bosnia. The propaganda machine is made up of a “strange combination of three major spin doctors, including public relations (PR) firms in the employ of the Bosniacs, media pundits, and sympathetic elements of the US State Department,” he says, who use “[d]iffering styles, approaches, and emphases” to advance their views. He notes how some of them have gone so far as to attack anti-interventionists as harboring “pro-Serb” or even “Nazi” sympathies. The United States’ European allies, who do not favor an intervention, are informed “from different information and a more realistic historical perspective,” he says. “They retain the advantages of more in-depth, professional, and probing journalism and better reporting from their embassies. Furthermore, they pay less attention to the constant propaganda themes emanating from the Bosniacs [Bosnian Muslim government] and their agents—the PR firms.” [Foreign Military Studies Office, 10/1995]
A suicide bombing destroys the police station in the town of Rijeka, Croatia, wounding 29 people. The Egyptian militant group Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya takes credit for the bombing, saying it is revenge for the abduction of Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya leader Talaat Fouad Qassem in Croatia the month before (see September 13, 1995). The Croatians will later determine that the mastermind, Hassan al-Sharif Mahmud Saad, and the suicide bomber were both tied to Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya. They also were tied to the Islamic Cultural Institute in Milan, Italy, which in turn has ties to many militant attacks, some committed Ramzi Yousef (see 1995-1997). CIA soon discovers that the suicide bomber also worked for the Third World Refugee Center charity front (see January 1996). [Kohlmann, 2004, pp. 153-155] In 1999, the FBI’s Bojinka investigation will notice that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) was believed to be in neighboring Bosnia at the time and that the timing device of the bomb (a modified Casio watch) closely resembled those used by KSM and his nephew Yousef in the Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995). Presumably, this would have increased the importance of catching KSM. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 489]
Richard Perle and Douglas Feith act as advisers to the government of Bosnia during the Dayton peace talks. They do not register with the Justice Department, as required by US law. Richard Holbrooke is the chief NATO civilian negotiator and Wesley Clark the chief NATO military negotiator. [Washington Watch, 5/13/2001] After the Dayton peace talks, Richard Perle then serves as a military adviser to the Bosnian government. [AFP Reporter, 1997]
Final boundaries in the Bosnian war. Gray represents the area controlled by Bosnian Muslims and Croats while white represents the area controlled by Bosnian Serbs. [Source: Time / Cowan, Castello, Glanton]On November 1, 1995, peace talks begin Croats, Muslims, and Serbs in Yugoslavia begin at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. A cease-fire holds while the talks continue. On November 22, the leaders of the three factions agree to a settlement. The peace accord is signed several weeks later (see December 14, 1995). [Time, 12/31/1995]
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]
Anwar Shaaban, an Islamist militant in charge of logistics for mujaheddin fighting in Bosnia, is killed in Croatia. Shaaban had been based at the Islamic Cultural Institute mosque in Milan, but managed to avoid arrest when it was raided (see Late 1993-December 14, 1995). On December 14, 1995, the same day a peace accord is signed ending the Bosnian war, Shaaban is killed by Croatian troops in what mujaheddin claim is an ambush. Shaaban’s diary is found, and it cites regular meetings between al-Qaeda leaders and leaders of the Bosnian Muslim government, including General Staff Chief Rasim Delic and Interior Minister Bakir Alispahic. [Schindler, 2007, pp. 216-217] Shaaban, a leader of the Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya militant group, had been in regular contact with Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman and al-Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri. [Schindler, 2007, pp. 163-164]
In 2006, popular Sarajevo magazine Slobodna Bosna will report that Bosnian Muslim President Alija Izetbegovic received nearly $200,000 from Yassin al-Qadi, who will later be officially designated a terrorist financier (see October 12, 2001). Bosnian authorities reportedly discovered the money transfer from a British bank while investigating the Muwafaq Foundation, a charity headed by al-Qadi. The investigation also learned that Muwafaq channeled $15 to 20 million to various organizations, and at least $3 million of that went into bank accounts controlled by Osama bin Laden. [AKI, 9/8/2006] Muwafaq reportedly helped finance the mujaheddin during the Bosnian war, especially supporting a mujaheddin brigade fighting for Izetbegovic’s government that was also called Muwafaq (see 1991-1995).
Saber Lahmar. [Source: Public domain]Author Roland Jacquard will later claim that in 1996, al-Qaeda revives its militant network in Bosnia in the wake of the Bosnian war and uses the Saudi High Commission (SHC) as its main charity front to do so. [Jacquard, 2002, pp. 69] This charity was founded in 1993 by Saudi Prince Salman bin Abdul-Aziz and is so closely linked to and funded by the Saudi government that a US judge will later render it immune to a 9/11-related lawsuit after concluding that it is an organ of the Saudi government. [New York Law Journal, 9/28/2005]
In 1994, British aid worker Paul Goodall is killed in Bosnia execution-style by multiple shots to the back of the head. A SHC employee, Abdul Hadi al-Gahtani, is arrested for the murder and admits the gun used was his, but the Bosnian government lets him go without a trial. Al-Gahtani will later be killed fighting with al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. [Schindler, 2007, pp. 143-144]
In 1995, the Bosnian Ministry of Finance raids SHC’s offices and discovers documents that show SHC is “clearly a front for radical and terrorism-related activities.” [Burr and Collins, 2006, pp. 145]
In 1995, US aid worker William Jefferson is killed in Bosnia. One of the likely suspects, Ahmed Zuhair Handala, is linked to the SHC. He also is let go, despite evidence linking him to massacres of civilians in Bosnia. [Schindler, 2007, pp. 263-264]
In 1997, a Croatian apartment building is bombed, and Handala and two other SHC employees are suspected of the bombing. They escape, but Handala will be captured after 9/11 and sent to Guantanamo prison. [Schindler, 2007, pp. 266]
In 1997, SHC employee Saber Lahmar is arrested for plotting to blow up the US embassy in Saravejo. He is convicted, but pardoned and released by the Bosnian government two years later. He will be arrested again in 2002 for involvement in an al-Qaeda plot in Bosnia and sent to Guantanamo prison (see January 18, 2002).
By 1996, NSA wiretaps reveal that Prince Salman is funding Islamic militants using charity fronts (Between 1994 and July 1996).
A 1996 CIA report mentions, “We continue to have evidence that even high ranking members of the collecting or monitoring agencies in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Pakistan - such as the Saudi High Commission - are involved in illicit activities, including support for terrorists” (see January 1996).
Jacquard claims that most of the leadership of the SHC supports bin Laden. The SHC, while participating in some legitimate charitable functions, uses its cover to ship illicit goods, drugs, and weapons in and out of Bosnia. In May 1997, a French military report concludes: ”(T)he Saudi High Commission, under cover of humanitarian aid, is helping to foster the lasting Islamization of Bosnia by acting on the youth of the country. The successful conclusion of this plan would provide Islamic fundamentalism with a perfectly positioned platform in Europe and would provide cover for members of the bin Laden organization.” [Jacquard, 2002, pp. 69-71]
However, the US will take no action until shortly after 9/11, when it will lead a raid on the SHC’s Bosnia offices. Incriminating documents will be found, including information on how to counterfeit US State Department ID badges, and handwritten notes about meetings with bin Laden. Evidence of a planned attack using crop duster planes is found as well. [Schindler, 2007, pp. 129, 284] Yet even after all this, the Bosnian government will still refuse to shut down SHC’s offices and they apparently remain open (see January 25, 2002).
International Islamic Relief Organization logo.
[Source: International Islamic Relief Organization]The CIA creates a report for the State Department detailing support for terrorism from prominent Islamic charities. The report, completed just as the Bosnian war is winding down, focuses on charity fronts that have helped the mujaheddin in Bosnia. It concludes that of more than 50 Islamic nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in existence, “available information indicates that approximately one-third… support terrorist groups or employ individuals who are suspected of having terrorist connections.” The report notes that most of the offices of NGOs active in Bosnia are located in Zagreb, Sarajevo, Zenica, and Tuzla. There are coordination councils there organizing the work of the charity fronts. The report notes that some charities may be “backed by powerful interest groups,” including governments. “We continue to have evidence that even high ranking members of the collecting or monitoring agencies in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Pakistan - such as the Saudi High Commission - are involved in illicit activities, including support for terrorists.” The Wall Street Journal will later comment, “Disclosure of the report may raise new questions about whether enough was done to cut off support for terrorism before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001… and about possible involvement in terrorism by Saudi Arabian officials.” [Central Intelligence Agency, 1/1996; Wall Street Journal, 5/9/2003] The below list of organizations paraphrases or quotes the report, except for informational asides in parentheses.
The International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO). “The IIRO is affiliated with the Muslim World League, a major international organization largely financed by the government of Saudi Arabia.” The IIRO has funded Hamas, Algerian radicals, Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya (a.k.a. the Islamic Group, an Egyptian radical militant group led by Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman), Ramzi Yousef, and six militant training camps in Afghanistan. “The former head of the IIRO office in the Philippines, Mohammad Jamal Khalifa, has been linked to Manila-based plots to target the Pope and US airlines; his brother-in-law is Osama bin Laden.”
Al Haramain Islamic Foundation. It has connections to Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya and helps support the mujaheddin battalion in Zenica. Their offices have been connected to smuggling, drug running, and prostitution.
Human Concern International, headquartered in Canada. Its Swedish branch is said to be smuggling weapons to Bosnia. It is claimed “the entire Peshawar office is made up of [Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya] members.” The head of its Pakistan office (Ahmed Said Khadr) was arrested recently for a role in the bombing of the Egyptian embassy in Pakistan (see November 19, 1995). (It will later be discovered that Khadr is a founder and major leader of al-Qaeda (see Summer 2001 and January 1996-September 10, 2001).)
Third World Relief Agency (TWRA). Headquartered in Sudan, it has ties to Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya. “The regional director of the organization, Elfatih Hassanein, is the most influential [charity] official in Bosnia. He is a major arms supplier to the government, according to clandestine and press reporting, and was forced to relocate his office from Zagreb in 1994 after his weapons smuggling operations were exposed. According to a foreign government service, Hassanein supports US Muslim extremists in Bosnia.” One TWRA employee alleged to also be a member of Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya carried out a suicide car bombing in Rijeka, Croatia (see October 20, 1995).
The Islamic African Relief Agency (IARA). Based in Sudan, it has offices in 30 countries. It is said to be controlled by Sudan’s ruling party and gives weapons to the Bosnian military in concert with the TWRA. (The US government will give the IARA $4 million in aid in 1998 (see February 19, 2000).)
Benevolence International Foundation (BIF) (the report refers to it by an alternate name, Lajnat al-Birr al-Islamiyya (LBI)). It supports mujaheddin in Bosnia. It mentions “one Zagreb employee, identified as Syrian-born US citizen Abu Mahmud,” as involved in a kidnapping in Pakistan (see July 4, 1995). [Central Intelligence Agency, 1/1996] (This is a known alias (Abu Mahmoud al Suri) for Enaam Arnaout, the head of BIF’s US office.) [USA v. Enaam M. Arnaout, 10/6/2003, pp. 37 ] This person “matches the description… of a man who was allegedly involved in the kidnapping of six Westerners in Kashmir in July 1995, and who left Pakistan in early October for Bosnia via the United States.”
Maktab al-Khidamat (MAK), a.k.a. Al-Kifah. This group has ties to Ramzi Yousef, Osama bin Laden, Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, and possibly Hezbollah. Both the former director of its Zagreb office [Kamer Eddine Kherbane] and his deputy [Hassan Hakim] were senior members of Algerian extremist groups. Its main office in Peshawar, Pakistan, funds at least nine training camps in Afghanistan. “The press has reported that some employees of MAK’s New York branch were involved in the World Trade Center bombing [in 1993].” (Indeed, the New York branch, known as the Al-Kifah Refugee Center, is closely linked to the WTC bombing and the CIA used it as a conduit to send money to Afghanistan (see January 24, 1994).
Muwafaq Foundation. Registered in Britain but based in Sudan, it has many offices in Bosnia. It has ties to Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya and “helps fund the Egyptian Mujahedin Battalion in Bosnia” and “at least one training camp in Afghanistan” (see 1991-1995).
Qatar Charitable Society, based in Qatar. It has possible ties to Hamas and Algerian militants. A staff member in Qatar is known to be a Hamas operative who has been monitored discussing militant operations. (An al-Qaeda defector will later reveal that in 1993 he was told this was one of al-Qaeda’s three most important charity fronts (see 1993)).
Red Crescent (Iran branch). Linked to the Iranian government, it is “Often used by the Iranian [intelligence agency] as cover for intelligence officers, agents, and arms shipments.”
Saudi High Commission. “The official Saudi government organization for collecting and disbursing humanitarian aid.” Some members possibly have ties to Hamas and Algerian militants (see 1996 and After).
Other organizations mentioned are the Foundation for Human Rights, Liberties, and Humanitarian Relief (IHH) (a.k.a. the International Humanitarian Relief Organization), Kuwait Joint Relief Committee (KJRC), the Islamic World Committee, and Human Appeal International. [Central Intelligence Agency, 1/1996]
After 9/11, former National Security Council official Daniel Benjamin will say that the NSC repeatedly questioned the CIA with inquiries about charity fronts.
“We knew there was a big problem between [charities] and militants. The CIA report “suggests they were on the job, and, frankly, they were on the job.” [Wall Street Journal, 5/9/2003] However, very little action is taken on the information before 9/11. None of the groups mentioned will be shut down or have their assets seized.
Entity Tags: Muwafaq Foundation, Muslim World League, National Security Council, Saudi High Commission, Red Crescent (Iran branch), Qatar Charitable Society, US Department of State, Third World Relief Agency, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Islamic World Committee, Islamic African Relief Agency, Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, Al Haramain Islamic Foundation, Ahmed Said Khadr, Benevolence International Foundation, Central Intelligence Agency, Daniel Benjamin, Elfatih Hassanein, International Islamic Relief Organization, Kuwait Joint Relief Committee, Human Appeal International, Foundation for Human Rights, Hamas, Saudi Arabia
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
Prominent neoconservative Richard Perle tells the Turkish Daily News that the arming and training of Bosnian Muslims is of “vital interest” to the US and suggests that “among the NATO allies Turkey is [the] number one candidate for the job.” He says that Turkey would need perhaps $50 million in financing to do the work. [Turkish Daily News, 1/22/1996]
The New York Times publishes an op-ed piece by Jacob Heilbrunn and Michael Lind titled, “The Third American Empire,” in which the authors assert that US military involvement in the Balkans should not be seen as the assertion of US influence in Europe, but as part of a strategy to exert US dominance in the Middle East and Central Asia. “[W]e should view the Balkans as the western frontier of America’s rapidly expanding sphere of influence in the Middle East,” they write. [New York Times, 1/2/1996]
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