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Osama bin Laden and his top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, with help from Iran, have recruited and trained brigades of blond, blue-eyed Bosnians and indoctrinated them for martyrdom, according to a report in Insight magazine.
”It’s the Joseph coat of terrorism,” says a former terrorism investigator, referring to the Old Testament account of Joseph’s coat of many colors. ”The next wave of terrorism could be carried out by people with fair skin, blond hair and blue eyes.”
Iran and the al-Qaida terrorist network began recruiting and training Bosnian Muslims more than 10 years ago for war against Orthodox Christian Serbs and Catholic Croats in an effort to expand the Muslim base in Eastern Europe.
Congressional terrorism expert Yossef Bodansky says there are many blond, blue-eyed Slavs among these Bosnian Islamists, and there were ”thousands trained by the mujahedin and a lot of them eventually joined the international brigades.”
Bodansky says, ”We are not just dealing with Arabs.”
So far, he adds, the Bosnian Islamists have been in support positions such as couriers, but that it’s only a matter of time before they show up in other areas of the terrorist web: ”They have been training in suicide missions.”
According to Insight, dismantling the jihadists’ training camps in the Balkans, after imposing peace plans that included Muslim power-sharing, was not a priority for the U.S. government, and the sponsors of the Muslim campaigns there have not decommissioned their jihadist forces in Bosnia, Albania and elsewhere in the region.
The U.S. House of Representatives Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, TFTUW, did manage to keep track of the Muslim extremist movement in the region and sounded early warnings.
TFTUW reports reveal a pattern of activities involving Islamists in the Balkans and around the world, and which point to potential threats to U.S. national security.
According to a report from 1992, Islam experienced an unexpected renaissance in communist Yugoslavia in the mid-1970s.
The revival increased the number of mosques throughout Bosnia-Herzegovina and led to a growing number of local youths being sent for higher Islamic studies in the Middle East, especially Iran, where the classes in schools for radical mullahs included some 250 Bosnians a year.
A former government terrorism expert, who spoke to Insight on the condition of anonymity, said Iran is at the core of recruiting and mobilizing terrorist-training efforts, with Iraq, Pakistan and Syria playing key support roles.
According to a TFTUW report, the Yugoslav government in Belgrade was
concerned about what it saw as evidence that within its 40 percent Muslim population there were ”Muslim terrorists operating against the West” and that ”Yugoslav Muslim youths were drawn into cooperation with and emulation of Arab terrorists.”
Meanwhile, the mullahs of Iran saw the Balkans as a prize to be won for the glory of Allah and markedly intensified political involvement in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The report says Iran proclaimed the battleground of Bosnia-Herzegovina a microcosm for resisting the West’s war on Islam, and called in reinforcements.
Those reinforcements included highly trained and combat-proven volunteers from Iran, Afghanistan, Lebanon and several other Arab countries.
Bodansky, who is the director of the TFTUW, says bin Laden and al-Zawahiri also played a significant role in deploying and concealing ”Islamist elite” terrorist forces brought in from around the Middle East, inculcating them into the Bosnian army and setting up humanitarian front organizations to explain their presence.
According to Bodansky, Iran considered the outside aid to Bosnia as central to securing for Muslims a role in the leadership of a ”multinational state” based on the imposition of the U.S.-led Dayton Accords of 1995 to keep peace in the region by deploying a NATO force.
The accords called for foreign Muslim fighters to leave Bosnia but, according to a 1996 TFTUW report, the majority of mujahedin scheduled to have left Bosnia still serve in the ranks of the army
of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The mujahedin are divided among three clusters of operational units and a fourth cluster of units directly engaged in terrorism and other covert special operations.
The report says the special military units are ”built around a hard core of foreign mujahedin while the rest of the troops are Bosnian Islamist.”
Ongoing training is provided by mujahedin fighters who were obligated to leave Bosnia under the Dayton Accords and who, according to Bodansky, are activating the Bosnian Islamists by
reminding them that without jihadist support, ”there would not have
been a Muslim Bosnia. … We helped you, you come and fight for us.”
According to terrorism experts with whom Insight spoke, the mujahedin fighters who went to Bosnia to help the Muslims already have been linked to attempted terrorist attacks in the United States.
The Washington Post reported that the Bosnian village of Bocinja Donja, which has 60 to 100 former mujahedin Islamic guerrillas from the Middle East, came under scrutiny when U.S. law-enforcement authorities discovered that a handful of the men who
have visited or lived in the area were associated with a suspected terrorist plot to bomb targets in the United States on New Year’s Day of 2000.
Bodansky, whose most recent book, “The High Cost of Peace,” is a stinging criticism of what he describes as failed U.S. policy in the Middle East, says U.S. policy has lacked forcefulness in dealing with the mujahedin problem in Bosnia by not forcing them out of the country as called for by the Dayton Accords.
He says the failure to act allowed the Islamist military brigades to maintain bases in Bosnia and continue to recruit and train Muslim forces for terrorist attacks.
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Scott L. Wheeler is a writer for Insight magazine.