Special Report: Terrorism and Organized Crime
in South-Eastern Europe: The Case of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Sanzak, and Kosovo
Defense & Foreign Affairs Special Analysis - March 1, 2007 Thursday
Analysis. By Darko Trifunovic, GIS Belgrade Station.<1> The territory of Bosnia-Herzegovina has become a haven for a widespread network of organized crime. Wars, economic crises, social, political and other upheavals have all created fertile soil for this maelstrom. The primary objective of organized crime is the acquisition of material wealth; this is accomplished through illicit activities with a high rate of return on investment: drug-smuggling, gunrunning, prostitution, trade in human organs and persons, etc. Corruption appears alongside organized crime.
In Bosnia-Herzegovina (hereafter: BiH), corruption is endemic,<2> ranging from abuse of police power and suspicious privatization deals, to involvement in smuggling of high-tariff goods, copyright piracy, gunrunning and human trafficking.
Problems multiply and there are no solutions in sight. Few believe the authorities' declarations of readiness to confront local and regional crime syndicates.<3>
One of the biggest problems is certainly the illicit narcotics trade, which directly affects EU countries. Seventy percent of all heroin arriving in the EU comes via one of three Balkan routes. BiH is part of one of the routes, but is increasingly becoming a storage zone for illicit narcotics and an emerging market in its own right, as the number of users grows. Local crime syndicates are connected with Albanian, Kosovo, Serb, Turkish, and Bulgarian mafias. There are two heroin routes into BiH: One starts in Afghanistan, through Turkey, Greece, Albania, and Serbia, and then through BiH westwards. The second starts in Albania, and then goes across Montenegro into southern BiH and Croatia, to proceed into Western Europe.<4>
Heroin and other substances are abundant in BiH - in restaurants, cafes, schools, and universities - and general dissatisfaction with quality of life has enabled the crime syndicates to recruit users and pushers among the youth.
This recent situation is being exploited by various Islamic fundamentalist terrorist organizations in BiH.
During the civil war, some of the Muslim military commanders were petty criminals, such as Ramiz Delalic - CELO<5> (deputy commander, 9<th> Motorised Brig.), Ismet Bajramovic - CELO (Military police commander<6>), Musan Topalovic - CACO<7> and Jusuf-Juka Prazina.<8> Also, members of the mentioned group are: Sead Becirevic-Sejo, Zulfikar Alic-Zuka (Military commander of the terrorist unit call Black Swans) and Bojadzic Nihat, a former officer of the R BiH Army. Political support to this group was given by prominent Muslim politicians in Sarajevo, such as Ejup Ganic and Haris Silajdzic. Haris Silajdzic was a member of the BiH Presidency. His sister, Salidza Silajdzic, married in Iran to a man believed to be a high-ranking officer of VEVAK, the Iranian intelligence service; and Haris' brother, Husref Silajdzic, is thought to be an agent of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
New information indicates that Haris Silajdzic is trying to restart the work of "Patriot League".<9> The center of the "Patriot League" is to be in Sarajevo with Gen. Vahid Karavelic as its head.
This organization used patriotism as a cover for its criminal activities during the war. Afterwards, however, a portion of the Muslim population in BiH replaced nationalism with a new ideology of Islamic fundamentalism. Islamic fundamentalists with a criminal background have substantial advantages in BiH:
1. Fast and easy access to weapons and explosives;
2. In-depth knowledge of smuggling routes;
3. Connections with corrupt officials and politicians;
4. Influence in local media and NGOs;
5. Connections with a large diaspora in the US and Western Europe
Terrorist networks have seized on these advantages of local criminals-turned-Islamic fundamentalists, creating a new model of terrorist funding.
While terrorists and criminal syndicates have different motivations, they both seek financial gain; only terrorists see it as a source of funding their ideological pursuits. As a result, terrorist networks in cooperation with organized crime syndicates generate significant sums of money. Both parties profit from cooperation. Terrorists provide supplies of narcotics, weapons, and contacts with drug-makers and smugglers worldwide. They also provide safe havens for organized crime syndicates, because they often control large territories where there is no rule of law. On the other hand, the terrorists readily and effectively use smuggling routes and undertake, as part of their operations, the illicit trade in goods. Both groups gather and exchange intelligence on corrupt state officials in all branches of government.
Islamic fundamentalists, including al-Qaida members, realize profits from the drug trade in two ways. One is by taking a percentage from the local criminal syndicates, and the other is taking a portion of illicit substances transported towards Western Europe. Profits from those drug sales are used by the terrorists to purchase arms and offer bribes, but increasingly often as well for hiring professional public relations and lobbying firms to come up with political justifications of Islamic fundamentalist terrorists.
Recent discoveries in BiH indicate that the trend of terrorist organizations funding themselves from drug sales is on the rise, due to a series of factors:
Financial scrutiny and the closing of so-called "humanitarian" organizations which were terror fronts;
Greater pressure on state sponsors of terrorism, resulting in their inability to funnel money to terrorists openly;
Increase in supply of heroin coming from Afghanistan; and
Connections between Islamic fundamentalists and organized crime syndicates
Of special consideration is the fact that Islamic terrorists have a widespread network of members and supporters in BiH, which is used for trafficking in people, weapons and, increasingly, drugs. Due to this, one can purchase a kilo of heroin in BiH through the "mujahedin connection" for anywhere between 11,000 and 13,000 euros . The street value would be three or four times more, because pure heroin is subsequently laced with other substances.
The BiH capital, Sarajevo, has become the base of a narco-cartel. After the murder of Lullzim Krasniqi<10> in Croatia, one of the major drug-dealers on the Balkans route, the investigation which took place in several countries uncovered the existence of a widespread network composed of criminals and former soldiers from the BiH Army. Almost all of them are Kosovo Albanians or Sanzak Muslims. Krasniqi's murder was linked to a large shipment of drugs via Kosovo, Sanzak, BiH, Croatia, and into Austria, where a portion was supposed to be retained for local distribution and the rest shipped to Germany, Switzerland, and the rest of the EU. Distribution was to be handled by numerous members of the Krasniqi family living in Graz and the surrounding areas.<11>
Krasniqi's main partners in Kosovo are Florim Maloku, Arben Viti, Dauti Kurtalli, Besim Ismaili, Ismet Osmani and EKREM (Kurtesh) LLUKA (a.k.a "Vuka"] linked to radical Islamic circles in Syria.<12> Ekrem Luka is the owner of the company "Banana" and is a close friend of Bexhet Pacoli. Bexhet Pacoli is very close friend of Raumush Haradinaj, who, on March 1, 2007, appeared before the International Criminal Tribunal on the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague, where he pleaded not guilty to war crimes.<13>
Krasniqi was well-connected with two leading criminal figures in BiH: Ramiz Delali - elo, leader of the Sanzak underground, and Naser Kellmendi, one of the most influential Albanians in Sarajevo. One of Kellmendi's closest associates, considered to be his connection to the criminal and terrorist circles in Kosovo, is "Jackie" Rugovcu, of Pe , who is also well-connected with Ekrem Lluka. Rugovcu had two separate channels for transporting weapons, drugs and prostitutes. Suad Musi was in charge of the Montenegro channel, while the Sanzak route was managed by Safet Kali - Sajo, close to major criminal syndicates in Kosovo and inner Serbia.<14> Suad Music and Safet Kalica are cousins.
Other notable individual in the organized crime network that finances Islamic terrorism in the Balkans are Halil Emrovic from Sanzak. Halil Emrovic is in charge of the heroin route from Turkey through Sanzak, BiH, and onwards to the West. He controls the heroin network supplies in Belgrade, Sarajevo, and Varazdin in Croatia.
Emrovi is the owner of "Edihal" textile plant in Novi Pazar, which is the cover for his heroin smuggling from Turkey through Kosovo and Croatia. Trucks transporting denim from Turkey are used for smuggling large quantities of heroin. One of these shipments was intercepted in Hungary recently, when 113 kilos of heroin was found in a truck driven by Emrovi 's cousin, Zamo (a.k.a. "Zamorano"), and Muzafer Bihorac. The heroin was received from brothers Semir and Munir, who own a textile factory in Istanbul, and was destined for a contact in Zagreb named Franjo.
After the arrest of Nirso Had ipe anina in Croatia and the seizure of 164 additional kilos of heroin which had been transported by bus from Sarajevo, Emrovi got into trouble with the Sarajevo underground, which suspected him of being involved in the seizures.<15> His contact in Istanbul is Hajro Aljkovi , and in Croatia Mensur Bibi "Meljo", both from Novi Pazar. He has drug-runners in Sarajevo, Macedonia, Bulgaria and Hungary.
Heroin is transported from Turkey into Western Europe along three routes: Bulgaria-Romania-Hungary, Kosovo-Montenegro-Italy, and Bulgaria-Serbia-Croatia. Known criminal associates: Plojovi D email " uti", Smajovi Faruk, Emrovi Halil, Vukovi Gordana (ex-Customs official) of Novi Pazar, as well as U kan Sedat, a Turkish citizen, and Sabahko, owner of "Igbal" hotel in Istanbul.<16> Ms Vukovi Gordana is today working in the Customs Service of Serbia, with her office in Kraljevo. She is driving a brand new BMW and she is having contact only with fellow Muslims from Sanzak (also transliterated as Sanjak or Sandjak). Her brother was arrested in the recent Police raid under the name of "Customs Mafia". Also following individuals are considered as dangerous operating in Novi Pazar/Sanzak region: Ljajic Mahmut Maso and Ibrovic Senad, who are suspects in the trafficking of "white slaves"; and Birdjozlic Jusuf, a heroin trafficker.
The core of Naser Kellmendi's crime syndicate is composed of the following: Elvis Kellmendi (age 27) born in Prizren, living in Ilid a (Sarajevo); Besnik Kellmendi (age 25) born in Pe , living in Zenica; Liridon Kellmendi (age 22) born in Pe , living in Novo Sarajevo; Almir Kukan (age 25) of Sarajevo; and Asllan Peci (age 41) born in Zve an, living in Ilid a (also a wartime commander in the Muslim-dominated ARBiH<17>).
One of the chief Islamic fundamentalist leaders connected to organized crime is Bashkim Gazidede.<18> Through his Islamist and criminal associations, he managed to organize a transfer of large quantities of heroin, whose sales provided funding for Islamic fundamentalist activities in the Balkans. Gazidede specifically used the funds to support black operations of SHIK (Albanian intelligence) in Kosovo. SHIK's leading agent and former member of the KLA, Xhavit Haliti, was arrested November 17, 2005, by the Syrian state security in Damascus. Haliti was charged with being a member of al-Qaida, with a mission to establish cells and recruit members of the "white al-Qaida " in the Balkans and support the organization's operations in Iraq.<19> Haliti's closes associates are Azem Syla and Rifa Haxhijaj, suspected of a series of war crimes and terrorism, and have close ties to Hashim Taqi<20>.
Bashkim Gazidede has another close associate among the Islamic fundamentalists: Abdul Latif Saleh, a citizen of both Jordan and Albania, considered an organizer of ties between Islamic and criminal groups in Chechnya, Kosovo and Jordan. Abdul Latif Saleh has set up a new terrorist organization in Kosovo known as "White Devils".
3. Korumpirani Balkan, Mirna SADIKOVI - Ankica BARBIR-MLADINOVI , www.slobodnaevropa.org od 09. decembar/prosinac 2004
4. BiH je zna ajna karika u lancu trgovine drogom , 24.12.2006. - Oslobo enje
9. The Patriot League is a paramilitary organization of the Bosnian Muslims, created at the beginning of Civil War in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was established as a party organization by Gen. Sefer Halilovic and his associates, on May 2, 1991. Not later than June 10, 1991, a meeting of Bosnian public servants from the whole of Yugoslavia was held in the Militia Hall in Sarajevo. Many criminal elements who showed their patriotism by attacking people of nationality different from their own entered this organization. They disguised their own goals under the guise of preserving the sovereignty of Bosnia-Herzegovina and its borders, and protecting the Muslim population in case of war.
11. Sarajevo je centar narko-mafije,DANI, Sarajevo, Broj 460 - 07.04.2006
13. Developed strong ties with controversial businessmen Bexhet Pacoli, who organizes and controls the work of tens of thousands of his fellow countymen who work abroad without papers.
14. Crnogorska tajna policija sakrila narkodilera Safeta Kalica pred potjernicom MUP-a Srbije, DAN, Crna Gora, od 23.05.2003. http://www.pcnen.com/novi/drugi/afere/afera19.htm
15. a anski obra un, NIN 2729 od 17.aprila 2003. http://www.nin.co.yu/2003-04/17/28334.html
18. Kosovo: Wiping the Slate Clean for Some Dirty Work Ahead, by Christopher Deliso. balkanalysis.com, February 1, 2006.
19. Kosovo SHIK, Directly Linked With Albanian SHIK Intelligence Organization, Prepares for "Big Push" For Kosovo Independence, Defense & Foreign Affairs Special Analysis, January 16, 2006.
20. Kosovo's Rebels Accused of Executions in the Ranks, By Chris Hedges, The New York Times, June 25, 1999.
Copyright 2007 Defense & Foreign
Affairs/International Strategic Studies Association
Reprinted with Permission