As the forces of the anti-terror coalition continue to close in on Osama bin Laden and his Taliban supporters, an international web of money and violence supporting militant Islam continues to operate with impunity.

A phony import/export corporation, a “shadow navy,” questionable relief agencies and bribery of regional officials all combine to allow the nearly free flow of terrorists and the money to support them, according to an article in the widely respected Italian daily, Corriere Della Sera.

While documenting the movement of Islamic fundamentalists across Italy to assist the Afghan Taliban regime, the writer of the article “Al Qaeda recluta ‘nuovi taenti’ in Italia” (translated: “al-Qaida recruits ‘new talent’ in Italy”) reveals a tangled network of clandestine activities across Western Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

One of the methods Islamic militants use to reach Taliban-controlled territory includes traveling across Albania in the Balkan Peninsula, through Turkey, and then across the Iranian plateau. Corrupt officials who are “disposed to closing both eyes” frustrate the Iranian government’s expressed cooperation with the anti-terror campaign, according to Corriere Della Sera.

Other militants travel by a “shadow navy” operating from a base in the United Arab Emirates. The ships sail using an import-export corporation as a front.

An ominous development, described in the article as a “new phenomenon,” is the move by al-Qaida to avoid contact with other known terrorist groups. These groups are considered to be “asleep” – but only for “a brief period” – until “the opportune moment” arrives, the article stated.

The money to finance the long journey of the militants, as well as other secret activities within the terror network, is believed to originate in the Gulf region and circulate among individuals who are known to that network but not directly linked to any part of it.

These “so-called independents” are located “in numerous localities in Western Europe” and are to persuade their “brothers” to join “the resistance against the Anglo-American forces.”

Financial backing for these “independents” comes from as yet unidentified sources, described in the article as “mysterious funds.”

The monies the “independents” receive finance a campaign to turn moderate Muslims into militant fighters, as well as to pay the expenses of those militants who are currently in transit.

The Balkan Peninsula plays an important role in the terrorist network. Albania, Kosovo and Bosnia not only are transit points for the passage of militants, but also are recruitment areas for Islamic fighters – some of whom are well-seasoned from the past decade of warfare in the region.

For years, observers have noted the central role Islamic fundamentalists have played in the most recent Balkan wars. The goal of the militants has been identified as a “greater Albania” – a fundamentalist Islamic state that would nearly bisect the Balkan Peninsula and re-awaken memories of 500 years of harsh Ottoman rule.

Most recently, a rebel movement in the Balkan nation of Macedonia, with close connections to Islamic militants in Kosovo and Bosnia, has won important concessions from the Macedonian central government.

While Muslim rebels in Macedonia state that they only seek fair representation, their opponents depict them as part of the “greater Albania” movement.

The Taliban regime in Afghanistan is considered to be the source of much of what is the present militant Islamic movement. The forced withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan in 1989 provided militant Islam with a valuable victory, expert weapons training – sometimes at the hands of U.S. instructors – and, after the ultimate Taliban victory over other Afghan factions, a secure base for future operations.

Militant Islamic movements in Algeria, Chechnya, India, China, Uzbekistan and even the Philippines have been directly linked to, or influenced by, the Taliban regime, and a variety of terrorist activities – including the Sept. 11 attacks – to the Taliban’s ally, Osama bin Laden.

Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.