Balkan Strategic Studies

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January 12, 2004

Terrorism Threats to Olympics and Balkans Now in Public Arena; Probable Underlying Cause of Greek Prime Minister’s Resignation

Exclusive. By Gregory R. Copley, Editor, GIS. With input from GIS stations Athens and Sarajevo.1 A number of significant public statements by European and US officials have hesitatingly moved the debate about an impending wave of Islamist terrorism in the Balkans into the open political arena. The comments echo intelligence and analysis by GIS over the past year to the effect that a new round of terrorism, sponsored by both the al-Qaida-related groups and the Iranian clerics and their networks, was expected to occur in 2004 and would involve direct threats to the Olympic Games. However, the continued reluctance to admit the threat level, even at this stage, may further delay response to this threat until major attacks occur.

GIS has gained significant additional intelligence from Muslim sources in Bosnia and elsewhere in the Balkans which highlights the ongoing nature of the threat, and points to a major planned terrorist attack against a US target in the near future, either in Sarajevo or Mostar, but most probably the latter. Specific new, firm intelligence on this and related matters appear in the latter part of this report.

The statement by Greek Prime Minister Konstandinos Simitis that al-Qaida terrorist elements in Bosnia jeopardized the Summer 2004 Athens Olympic Games — immediately followed by the resignation of Prime Minister Simitis2 at the beginning of 2004, the year which should have been the pinnacle of his career — and the subsequent reluctant acknowledgement by US Ambassador to Bosnia-Herzegovina Clifford Bond that there were “foreign elements” (presumably terrorists) causing concern in Bosnia have moved the debate about a new terrorist wave emanating from the Balkans into the public domain.

This admission is something which the Greek Government and some elements of the US Foreign Service had been strenuously trying to avoid, for different reasons. [Prime Minister Simitis’ statement also represents a massive failure not only for the Greek Government’s efforts to address the terrorist threat, but also a failure of the expensive consultants on security hired by the Greek Government.]

At the same time, the Bosnia-Herzegovina Interior Minister on January 9, 2004, indicated that a significant number of Bosnian Muslim youths were known to be away fighting for radical Islamist causes in Chechnya, Iraq and Afghanistan. Days earlier, a Muslim Bosnian mother said that her son, who had supposedly been in Turkey studying, had in fact been killed in fighting in Chechnya; he had been recruited after an initial payment of, reportedly, around US$20,000.

As well, it had been discovered that multi-barrel rocket-launchers and ammunition made in Bosnian Muslim factories had found their way to Iraq, where they had been used in action by Islamist guerillas, fighting against US forces.

What is significant in all of this is the fact that:

The Bosnian Muslims controlled by the late Alija Izetebegovic’s SDA party (Party of Democratic Action) have long infiltrated and controlled the Bosnian intelligence services, and it is regarded by Muslims, Serbs and Croats alike that the submersion of the Republica Srpska intelligence capability within the “national” body would destroy the archives and networks of Republica Srpska. The RS capability has been at the forefront of identifying the Islamist terrorist and mujahedin networks in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and has now become a central part in the “war on terror” given the growing build-up toward a major terrorist and insurgency offensive underway now in its region.

It is significant that when the shipment was discovered of aircraft parts from Republica Srpska factories to Iraq — before the US initiated hostilities against Iraq — the RS Government of Pres. Dragan Cavic went to major lengths to uncover all the details and to indict officials found to be responsible or negligent in the matter. The RS Government produced tens of thousands of pages of documentary evidence and displayed a significant transparency in following through on the matter. It nonetheless endured major criticism from Paddy Ashdown. No Iraqi aircraft were subsequently to see action, while, to the contrary, the Bosnian Muslim rocket launchers and ordnance have been used by guerilla forces specifically against US and Coalition forces in Iraq. Despite this, Ashdown refuses to comment on the matter or to launch an investigation.

He has also said that counter-terrorism was not a matter of concern for the Office of the High Representative (OHR), and that it was the responsibility of the “entities” (ie: the component states with Bosnia-Herzegovina: Republica Srpska and the Bosnia & Herzegovina (Muslim-Croat) Federation). Despite this statement, he has gone to great lengths, by attempting to force the end to the RS intelligence capability, to deny RS the capability to track terrorist-related activities and at the same time to help Bosnian Muslim radicals to cover up their involvement in supporting terrorist activities.

Ashdown entered the post of High Representative when he was removed as leader of the British Liberal Party, and took the opportunity to claim a life peerage (making him Lord Ashdown), but he also brought with him a history of considerable bias in favor of Muslim causes. His Deputy at the OHR, Amb. Hays, on the other hand, was a career US Foreign Service officer who owed his rise and career prospects to the Clinton Administration — and specifically to the then-US Representative to the UN, Richard Holbrooke — which had supported former Bosnian Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic, who it is now known was actively engaged in supporting al-Qaida, which used Bosnian assets for the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the US.

As GIS reported earlier, Hays in October 2003 escorted his former boss, Clinton Administration State Dept. official Richard Holbrooke, around Bosnia, introducing him as “the next US Secretary of State”, presumably when the Democratic Party took over from the present Republican Bush Administration. Holbrooke, with Clinton, had gone to great lengths to support Izetbegovic. Now, it appears, Amb. Hays’ motive for attempting to suppress the links between the SDA and al-Qaida and the Iranian clerical leaders was to avoid the embarrassment of having the Clinton Administration’s links with the 9/11 attackers brought to light in a US Presidential election year.

See Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily October 20, 2003: Bosnia’s Izetbegovic Dead, But US Diplomat, Ashdown in B-H Push Islamist Line to Support Holbrooke.

Significantly, the Clinton camp has thrown its weight behind Presidential candidate Gen. (rtd.) Wesley Clark, who was NATO Supreme Allied Commander in 1999 when Clinton ordered the attacks on Yugoslavia. Today, the major Albanian-American and Albanian supporters who heavily funded the two Clinton election bids have thrown their financial and political weight behind Clark, a fact noted prominently on the Clark election website.

So the pressures to suppress evidence of the growth of radical Islamist terrorist activities in Bosnia (and, indeed, in Serbia’s Kosovo province and the southern Serbia/northern Montenegro area known as Raška or Sandzak) have a significant and diverse base. However, given the growing isolation of the Iranian clerical leadership and the pressures on al-Qaida — coupled with the presence of a prime terrorist target in the Athens Summer Olympics — the matter can now no longer be hidden. At the same time, SDA leaders speaking at the funeral of Alija Izetbegovic in late 2003 noted that the continued existence of the Republica Srpska would no longer be tolerated, and the matter would be rectified. Ashdown was at the funeral, but did not respond to the comments.

See Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily, October 24, 2003: Bosnian Islamist Leader, in Front of US Ambassador, Declares Intent to Change Dayton Accords, Destroy Republica Srpska.

GIS networks in the Balkans, Central Asia and the Middle East have been aware for some time of a number of specific plans involving a wide range of al-Qaida, as well as other radical Islamist groups to target the Olympics and at the same time mount simultaneous assaults aimed at promoting a variety of Islamist objectives, including the renewed assault on the Bosnian Serbs, moves for domination of southern Serbian/northern Montenegrin areas, Kosovo and the former Yugoslav state of Macedonia. Significantly, the attempt to create a Muslim belt from the Adriatic Sea up into the heart of Europe has been known for many decades by the Islamists as the “green transversal”, the green standing for the Muslim color (although, ironically, it is also the color of the Orthodox Christians), and transversal meaning a line or path on the ascendant.

The Bosnian Muslims, even during the Tito era, managed to inject the name onto sports stadium in Sarajevo, now the capital of Bosnia & Herzegovina. The Zetra Stadium specifically stands for ZElena (Green) TRAnsverszala, in Serbo-Croat.

The Mujahedin and Islamists in Bosnia

There have for more than a decade been three main radical Islamist mujahedin operating in Bosnia:

  1. The Iranian mujahedin, consistently entirely of Iranian nationals. Their main function has been training, ideological projection and fundraising and financing. This group, which involves Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC: Pasdaran) has stayed away from direct involvement in actual combat operations, even, as much as possible, during the Bosnian civil war which ended in 1995.

  2. The Arab mujahedin, consisting mainly of Arab volunteers, mainly (and spearheaded by) Saudi Arabian nationals, but also including Palestinians, Jordanians, Yemenis and Gulf Arabs. These forces have mainly been engaged in military training of volunteers, including Bosnian Muslims, but have also been engaged in military operations predominantly involving demolition work and diversion operations.

  3. The North African mujahedin, mainly involving Egyptians, Algerians, Moroccans and the like. This group has by far the most direct military experience of the three mujahedin forces, and has been engaged in terrorist operations.

Significantly, the three main groupings of mujahedin are often competitive with each other, but cooperate extensively with each other as well, and also with the local Bosnian Muslim armed groups including the several-thousand strong Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan) who are active through several main centers in Bosnia & Herzegovina. However, the camps of the three mujahedin groups in Bosnia are very separate from each other, and the members do not mix.

The headquarters of the Arab mujahedin in Bosnia changed recently when, in November 2003, moving from Zenica to Konjic, the new headquarters being approximately equidistant between Sarajevo and Mostar (each being about 50km away). Significantly, the Arab mujahedin has emerged as the most militant of the three foreign groups in Bosnia, although there appears to be strong evidence that the more experienced North Africans have been engaged in some of the more serious terrorist actions (including the September 11, 2001, attacks on the US).

Significantly, explosives — bomb components — from Bosnia were tracked leaving the country in the hands of three of the North African mujahedin, and went to Switzerland, where the individuals concerned noted their surveillance and moved into a predominantly Arab refugee area and caused a mob to attack the surveilling Swiss security officers. This enabled to mujahedin to escape. Chemical analysis of terrorist bomb blasts in Casablanca in 2003 showed that the components from Bosnia had been used.

Much of the funding for the mujahedin camps — but mostly for the Arab and North African operations — is funneled through Qatar, according to sources within the groups. Much of it is donated as genuine humanitarian funding, but is diverted so that the vast majority of it goes toward funding of mujahedin. All groups benefit from narcotics trafficking funds, with this traffic largely controlled in this area by Muslims of Bosnian or Serb background, or Albanians. Given that the source of most (if not all) the heroin coming through the pipeline is al-Qaida-related and originating in Afghanistan, and passing through the “business line” of the Albanian/Yugoslav Muslims, it is not surprising that a significant proportion of the revenues from this are also provided to either the mujahedin groups and Islamist groups in Bosnia and Kosovo.

There is a distinct division of labor in the narco-trafficking. The mujahedin groups never engage in commerce themselves, but provide the security and logistics of the narcotics pipeline from the time it reaches Albania and Kosovo through Raška and Bosnia and into Western Europe. Apart from the funding which goes to the mujahedin groups and other Islamist fighting groups in Kosovo, Raška, Macedonia and Bosnia, an extensive contribution is made toward buying influence among local non-Muslim politicians and other foreign officials.

Very well-placed Muslim sources said that the brother of one Federal cabinet minister in Serbia-Montenegro was based in the southern Serbian city of Novi Pazar (literally “New Bazaar”) and acted as the key business head for much of the narcotics traffic. These sources also said that other cabinet officials and lower level officials were also benefiting from pay-offs from the narcotics and prostitution rackets, which also provided the same lines of communications and logistics for the movement of terrorists and weapons.

The sources also said that as many as 40 US citizens, whom they described as “American officials” were also profiting from narcotics and white slave operations conducted by the Albanian and former Yugoslav Muslims. It has already been extensively documented that organized crime groups designated as “Albanian” dominate both the narcotics and prostitution trades in many Western European countries, including the UK. The knowledge that there were “Americans”, presumably of an official nature, actively engaged with some of the Islamist groups has made many of the Muslim sources wary of approaching US intelligence services with information. The sources said that they had provided some information in the past to US officials; some of the information had been acted on, but some had been totally disregarded, leading them to the conclusion that there were some “conflicts of interests”.

One source said that he had volunteered information on the locations of major arms storage facilities, in which Islamists had significant supplies of many types of weapons, including Stinger and SA-7 Strela SAMs, a wide range of anti-tank guided weapons (Soviet/Russian origin), and other systems. He said that the US intelligence official to which he volunteered the information had expressed no interest, despite being told that the weapons were also being sent to Islamist fighters in Iraq. He also said that he had details of the process and activities of Bosnian Muslim groups shipping fighters from Bosnia through Syria into Iraq “to fight Americans”, but even this information elicited no interest.

Meanwhile, the Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan) in Bosnia in December 2003 lost its leader, Camil Višca, when he was arrested. His post has now been taken over by a mujahedin leader known only as “Aziz”.

With regard to the planning now underway for a major attack on a US asset at either Mostar or Sarajevo, the sources said that the attack would be undertaken “in response” to some major US action elsewhere in the world, so that it would appear as a spontaneous reaction to an alleged US “outrage”.

Considerable information of this nature, much of far more detailed and specific, was known to have been provided to US intelligence officials over the past year, and yet US officials in Bosnia, with the exception of the vague and tentative statement by Amb. Clifford Bond, have consistently either played down or denied that a terrorist threat existed in Bosnia. More significantly, Amb. Donald Hays, the US Deputy High Representative, has worked actively to suppress and intimidate the Government of Republica Srpska, threatening to arbitrarily dismiss various members of the Government, including the Prime Minister, unless they complied with his and Ashdown’s demands to fall into line with plans designed to support the radical Islamist SDA party which has continued to have strong ties with al-Qaida and the Iranian mujahedin.

Indeed, because of the constant exposure of the actions of Hays and Ashdown by GIS, the OHR has attempted to make enquiries in Washington to determine the extent to which GIS’ exposure might affect their freedom of action. The OHR has used its virtually unlimited powers, granted by the Dayton Accords, to interfere in all areas of governance in Bosnia Herzegovina, presumably largely on the basis that the White House and the European Union leadership have been too preoccupied with other issues to monitor these activities.


1. Copley wrote this report from the field, in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

2. Prime Minister Simitis was likely to be succeeded by his Foreign Minister, Georgios Papandreou, who would be faced with the task of bringing the Olympic Games to a successful conclusion. The Government of Prime Minister Simitis has been continually facing pressure from the international security committee states for the Olympics, including the US, Israel, Russia, Australia and the UK, to address the security of the Olympics. As GIS has reported, despite an unprecedented commitment of funds to Olympic security, the international committee remained (and remains) unsatisfied about Olympic security, and the Greek Government had failed to adequately address the broader scope of the threat, namely procuring adequate global intelligence of the threat from al-Qaida-related groups, supported by those elements controlled or influenced by the Iranian Government, and then to build an adequate counter-terrorism capability in alliance with neighboring and other foreign states’ services. The risk remains high and the prospect exists for the cancellation of the Games for security reasons. In any event, public concern about security was expected to play a part in the attendance levels, and therefore the viability, of the Olympics. See, particularly, the December 11, 2003, and October 15, 2003, reports by GIS.