- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 14, 2001

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina Posters exhorting Bosnia's Muslims to rise in holy war against America were printed and ready for pasting about the time the first U.S. cruise missile slammed into Afghanistan.
"We want a third and a fourth world war for Islam long live bin Laden," reads one of several posters recently confiscated by police. "Afghanistan, Bosnia why wouldn't you fight for oppressed men, women and children?" asks another.
Mostly secular or religious moderates, the overwhelming majority of Bosnia's more than 1 million Muslims, pose no terrorist threat. Most remain grateful to the United States for its support in their 1990s war against Serbs and Croats and condemn the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
"It's always the innocent who die," said Lejla Hamic, 20, a deeply observant Muslim covered head to toe in traditional garb. "I feel sorry for the people of America."
Still, as the United States widens its war against Osama bin Laden, officials are paying attention to signs that a radical fringe is trying to stir up Bosnia, one the largest Muslim areas in Europe.
Chief U.N. war-crimes tribunal prosecutor Carla Del Ponte said last week she had turned over information to the United States on "people who were staying in Bosnia in connection with terrorist groups."
And Mohammed Besic, interior minister of the Muslim-Croat half of Bosnia, acknowledged that "terrorism is a danger" as he announced the arrest of Bensayah Belkacem, who was carrying Yemeni and Algerian passports and is accused of discussing on the phone with a bin Laden aide how to procure foreign passports.
Twenty other suspects are being screened on U.S. request, he said.
Bosnia is home for up to 200 Islamic fighters, or mujahideen, who came to the country mostly from the Middle East to fight on the Muslim side in the 1990s war against Serbs and Croats, then stayed and married local women.
Some of those who fought in Bosnia have been linked to terrorist acts, including three Saudi nationals who confessed to the 1995 bombing of a U.S. base in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, according to a report compiled for the U.S. Congress. It says the three also fought against the Soviets in Afghanistan and Chechnya.
Bosnia's mujahideen lead secretive, separate lives. Before dropping out of sight, their Palestinian leader, Imad Hussein Abu Hamza, last month distanced himself from the "killing of children, women, innocent people and civilians."
But alluding to the still-to-come U.S. strikes on Afghanistan, he said "the entire Islamic world" has an obligation to defend Muslims there, should they need help.
Since Sept. 11, potential radicals, including the Islamic fighters, have been under increased surveillance by police working with the FBI and NATO intelligence, international officials say. The new government in the Muslim-Croat federation appears to have been goaded into action by the attacks and Western pressure to get tough or lose crucial financial and political support.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide