Bosnian Federation TV views "forgotten" terror suspects
BBC Monitoring Europe (Political) - April 21, 2006, Friday

An investigative programme on Bosnian TV has revisited the subject of alleged former Al-Qaidah militants in Bosnia dating from the time of the 1992-95 war. Following is excerpt from report by Bosnia-Hercegovina Federation TV on 17 April

[Host Bakir Hadziomerovic] Regardless of how unsuccessfully the local authorities may be trying to deny it, over the past dozen years Bosnia-Hercegovina has, unfortunately, been a base for carpetbagging terrorists. Tonight we are publishing exclusive documents and evidence on the wide terrorist network in our country. "We are knocking on the doors of forgotten terrorists" [pun on the title of a rubric in a popular pre-war TV sport programme, "We are knocking on the doors of forgotten stars"], Damir Kaletovic.

[Reporter Damir Kaletovic] If, following the indictment that the Bosnian prosecution has issued against Mirsad Bajraktarevic aka Maksimus, Bajro Ikanovic and Cesur Abdulkadir for an act of terrorism, we can talk about the existence of an Al-Qai'dah cell in Bosnia-Hercegovina, the reasons for its establishment must, then, be sought ten-plus years back. It was then that the so-called war veterans - most of them of Arab origin - whose war biographies include experience from Afghan fronts and Usamah Bin-Ladin links started arriving in the country. Support for these extremists by the former Bosniak [Bosnian Muslim] religious and political leadership was never in question. Quite to the contrary, the cooperation took place to mutual satisfaction. This is proven by the documentation that we have obtained.

You are watching a document of November 1994 [close-up shot of the document and signature, with parts highlighted], in which the then commander of the infamous Al Mujahid Unit, Abu Al Ma'ali, is addressing the president of the Republic of Bosnia-Hercegovina, Alija Izetbegovic. Respecting Izetbegovic's function, Al Ma'ali is asking him, as you can see, to have two Al Mujahid members released from an HVO [Croat Defence Council] prison. Noting that quote "Our brothers are nothing more than any other ordinary mujahid in the Bosnian army" end of quote, Abu Ma'ali recalls that not a single crime or looting incident has happened in the region where foreign volunteers fought. Exactly five years after the Izetbegovic-Abu Ma'ali correspondence, the US State Department abruptly suspended a military assistance programme for the [Bosnian] Federation Army, asking the local authorities and President Izetbegovic personally to hand over the former Al Mujahid commander, Abdelkader Mokhtari, better known as Abu Ma'ali.

The Captain First Class [Bosnian: natkapetan] of the B-H Army, promoted to the rank by the wartime B-H Presidency - whose decision you are watching right now - headed a terrorist group that prepared attacks on US military targets in Germany, which were thwarted just in time. Following the concrete moves by the US administration and the threat of economic sanctions, Izetbegovic agreed to deport Abu Ma'ali, who would subsequently - according to US sources - nevertheless occasionally come back to Bosnia-Hercegovina. Abu Ma'ali is believed to be active today at the Al Qai'dah HQ in Afghanistan, although various unchecked sources report his possible presence in B-H, and even detention at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Another terrorist known internationally has been in Bosnia-Hercegovina and, unfortunately, left a bloody trace in the country. You are watching the picture of Ahmed Zuhair, better known as Handala. This Saudi, born in 1965, appeared in the [Bosnian] Federation territory in late 1994. As can be seen from this documentation, Handala entered B-H thanks to an official ID issued in Zagreb. This terrorist had a duly registered permanent residence in the Croatian capital, where he was issued with this press ID. Handala had received military training in Afghanistan. There is founded suspicion that he participated in the assassination of William Jefferson, the US citizen killed in November 1995 in Tuzla. In addition, Handala organized the planting of a car bomb in Mostar, the terrorist act of September 1997, in which fortunately there were no casualties.

Interestingly, a mere four months before perpetrating this terrorist act, Handala was pardoned under a decree by the then [Bosnian] Federation president and released from prison, where he was serving a five-year sentence. It is known for a fact that Handala connected fuses to explosive outside the house of his father-in-law in Zeljezno Polje near Zepce. Afterwards, accompanied by several other individuals of Arab origin, he set off for Mostar and carried out the criminal plan.

We should also recall here the shameful statement by Haris Silajdzic, the then co-chair of the Council of Ministers, who five days after the Mostar explosion blamed the Mostar mafia for the act and hinted that individuals from Mostar's [predominantly Croat-populated] west bank were behind it. Silajdzic said on this occasion quote "Those who were capable of establishing concentration camps were also capable of doing this" end of quote. The US administration certainly took this statement into account when it at some point denied US visa to this visionary and patriot on the anniversary of the signing of [the] Dayton [Peace Agreement].

However, let us turn back to Ahmed Zuhair Handala. According to a Slovenian police report, Handala was at some point among the group of persons on whom floppy disks were found with data and plans of planting explosive under several bridges in B-H. According to the information of this magazine, having escaped the B-H authorities, Handala has found his latest refuge in the US prison at Guantanamo, Cuba.

In addition to these two examples, there is a number of similar ones. Thus, for instance, one of those most responsible for the 2002 bomb attack on the US aircraft carrier USS Cole and the 2002 attack on the French tanker Limburg, Abu Asim al Meki, had also fought in B-H, and lost his left leg in the fighting. Interestingly, al Meki was believed to be one of two leaders of the Al-Qai'dah terrorist in Yemen.

To the list of Al-Qai'dah collaborators who were in our country almost at the same time we should also add Lionel Dumont, who in 1999, under circumstances that remain unclear, escaped from Zenica prison, to which he was taken after a 20 year-sentence for aggravated robbery and murder. Dumont was subsequently arrested in Germany, after which he was extradited to France, where he is serving a 30-year prison sentence for murders and aggravated robbery. The French authorities also charged Dumont for the attempted bomb-planting during a G7 summit in Lilles. As a member of the Al Mujahid Unit, Dumont too was under Abu Ma'ali's command.

[Passage omitted: the reporter goes on to describe the work of Islamic humanitarian organizations in Bosnia, most of which closed down over suspicion regarding their financial operations; he elaborates the case of the BIF humanitarian organization]

Parts of the extensive documentation on the terrorist network in Bosnia-Hercegovina, unfortunately, show that West European countries, the US and various terrorism experts were right when they indicated that our country was a potential Al-Qai'dah base. All this -and in an even more drastic form at that - was confirmed following the successful operations of the BiH Federation police at the end of last and beginning of this year.

[Passage omitted: reporter describes the case of the three terror suspects arrested in Bosnia in October 2005 and recently indicted for terrorism by Bosnian state prosecution; he also recalls the murder of three members of a Croat family in the Hercegovina village of Kostajnica on Christmas Eve 2002 by "religious fanatic" Muamer Topalovic]

Source: Bosnia-Hercegovina Federation TV, Sarajevo, in Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian 1800 gmt 17 Apr 06

Copyright 2006 British Broadcasting Corporation
Posted for Fair Use only.