Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily, Monday, June 21, 2004
Strategic Studies Association - June 21, 2004

Balkan Islamists Note Continued Push for Olympics-Related Action Despite Support for Iraq Exclusive. From GIS Stations Sarajevo and Belgrade, and other sources. Proven reliable sources within the Islamist mujahedin in Bosnia-Herzegovina confirmed to GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily in mid-June 2004 that planning by  al-Qaida-related groups, Bosnian Islamists and Iranian Pasdaran forces for terrorist action related to the August 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens was proceeding on schedule, despite the significant movement of Islamist fighters and weapons from Bosnia to Iraq via Syria.

GIS had conducted an ongoing probe of Islamist sources in the Balkans — particularly in the Serbian areas of Kosovo and Raška, and in Bosnia-Herzegovina — to determine whether the urgent escalation of jihadist forces and operations in Iraq had distracted from known earlier attempts to prepare attacks around and during the Athens Olympics.

 One particular response mirrored the sentiment expressed by several sources within the combatant arms of the Islamist forces: “Greece is the mother of modern democracy, and it is Western democracy which is the enemy of Islam. Of course the Olympics in Athens are the biggest symbol of democracy for us to attack.”

 Several sources acknowledged that representatives of a number of Islamist groups had visited Bosnia recently, buying particularly supplies of rocket-propelled grenades, and recruiting fighters to go to Iraq for the current conflict.

Most of the recruitment had gone on through one of the main mujahedin commanders in Bosnia, known as Emir el-Aziz, who is headquartered in the town of Maoca, near Brcko. Maoca is one of 15 major towns in Bosnia totally controlled by mujahedin and which are essentially off-limits to non-Islamist outsiders. These are known to NATO intelligence services (Stabilization Force — SFOR — intelligence) as “terrorist bases”. Maoca, for example, each night has the streets leading into and out of the town blocked by trucks, parked athwart the streets.

The most significant smuggler of weapons and Islamists working under Emir el-Aziz is known by the nickname “Ali Baba”, but who operates from Tuzla under the name of Sea Kahriman. Interpol, however, is known to be looking for him under another name. Kahriman was, during May and June 2004, buying supplies of rocket-propelled grenades and anti-aircraft missiles for the Iraqi buyers. He was also known to be working — in the purchase of the weapons — with Zehrudin Emerovic, currently driving a white Volvo car with Zurich numberplates, and also working in Tuzla.

Bosnian and Serbian sources said that the movement of weapons, fighters and narcotics along the so-called “green transversal” — the Islamist-controlled supply route linking through Albania, FYR of Macedonia, Kosovo & Metohija (Serbia) and Raška (areas of Serbia and Montenegro) into Bosnia — was now being significantly facilitated by the withdrawal of garrisons of the Army of Serbia & Montenegro from Raška. The major towns of Raška oblast (also known to the Islamists as Sandzak) are Islamist-controlled; the farms and the countryside belong to Christian Serbs. There was, therefore, no formal military presence in that vital area which is the nexus of the landbridge across the Gorazde Corridor into Bosnia.

No official explanation was given for the withdrawal of the Army units from the area. Police in the towns of Raška are essentially dominated by Islamists, facilitating the widespread radical activity as well as commercial smuggling. This move had significantly reduced the flow of intelligence on terrorist activities during the build-up to the Olympics.

However, Serbian military sources said that recent contacts with Greek military officials on the subject of security for the Olympics had not led to any major advances in real security. One senior Serbian officer noted: “The Greek Armed Forces seem to think that this is a problem which can be tackled by uniformed military and police security nets. We know from our experiences in the past decade and a half that it is something which must be handled by clandestine penetration of the terrorist groups and their logistical support lines, and there is no evidence that the Greeks are doing that in the areas which matter: in Kosovo & Metohija, Raška and in Bosnia. As far as we know, they have not had any substantive contact with the counter-terrorist intelligence officials in Republica Srpska (the Bosnian Serb state within Bosnia & Herzegovina), or in Sarajevo.”

One US source said: “The Greeks think that nothing will happen at the Olympics because they have paid off people who claim to speak for bin Laden. As a result, their security measures in Greece are cosmetic and have not been based on pre-emptive penetration of terrorist groups. As well, they think that the US and others will save them. If there is no terrorist action against the Games, it is not going to be because the Greeks stopped them; the place is porous. Only a major distraction of the Islamists in the bin Laden groups, or in Iran, will stop them.”

However, Bosnian sources said that SFOR intelligence and counter-terrorism capabilities had been steadily improving and had effectively intercepted — without fanfare — weapons supplies moving out to support the jihadists in Iraq. Significantly, it was understood to be SFOR leadership which caused the Bosnia-Herzegovina “High Representative”, Paddy Ashdown, to attempt a face-saving move in June 2004 which effectively reversed his decision of April 20, 2004, to arbitrarily remove the Head of the Republica Srpska Secretariat for Cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, Dejan Miletic. Mr Miletic had been removed for refusing to sign off on a statement which essentially — at Ashdown’s insistence —  accepted responsibility for the so-called “Srebrenica Massacre” of 1995. The Secretariat had provided substantial evidence contradicting Ashdown’s totally unsubstantiated claims about the incident. Ashdown’s response was to use his powers under the Dayton Accords to remove Mr  Miletic.

The April 20, 2004, legal document used to summarily dismiss Mr Miletic noted that it would also “bar him from holding any official, elective or appointive public office and from running in elections and from office within political parties, unless or until such time as the High Representative may expressly authorize him so to do or to hold the same”.

SFOR officials subsequently told the Office of the High Representative that this move had dealt a major blow to counter-terrorism intelligence in Bosnia-Herzegovina at a critical time. Ashdown’s office claimed to have had no knowledge that Mr Miletic was so important to this work, and agreed that he could be reinstated, although not with the same title. As a result, Mr Miletic was, in less than two months, reinstated but now with the title of head of all of the Secretariat’s Investigative Projects, restoring him to effective control of the entire Secretariat.

The restoration of Mr Miletic was a major slap in the face to Ashdown, but it also demonstrated to NATO officials in Europe and Washington that Ashdown was seriously interfering with the political and intelligence priorities in the Balkans.

One SFOR source told GIS: “Ashdown’s attempts to pretend that Islamist terrorism does not exist in Bosnia, and that it was not related to the  September 11 [2001] attacks on the US, or the Madrid attacks, or Iraq, or the Olympics, has made the war on terrorism extremely difficult. His only concern is to protect his own reputation and his old Muslim friends who have turned out to be radical Islamists and not the democratic moderates he thought them to be. Ashdown is a big part of the problem.”

A number of sources in the region, however, said that there was a gradual change occurring among US Embassy officials — particularly the change of Ambassador in Belgrade, with the removal, after a social scandal, of the former Clinton Administration appointee — as the current US Bush Administration started focusing on the area. It was believed that this would gradually remove support for Ashdown in Bosnia, although Ashdown was the European Union appointee and remains supported by a Clinton Administration appointee as Deputy High Representative, Ambassador Donald Hays, who has actively attempted to undermine Bush Administration policy in the Balkans. Ashdown has continuously attempted to portray the delays in Bosnia-Herzegovina entering the NATO Partnership for Peace (PfP) as being caused by the Bosnian Serbs, although SFOR sources indicate that the Bosnian Serb forces were much more ready for NATO participation than those of the Muslim-Croat Federation. In that part of the Bosnia-Herzegovina Armed Forces, more than 50 percent of the Muslim forces were believed to be affiliated with radical Islamist mujahedin groups.

Significantly, SFOR and other intelligence sources have also expressed concern about a key senior official in the Bosnian Muslim Federation police, a woman officer, Mirsada Beganovic Zutic, who had allegedly given false domicile documents to Islamist extremists coming into Bosnia.

Copyright 2004 Strategic Studies Association
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