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After Madrid, Terror Leader’s “Balkan Map” Worries Italy

March 28, 2004

By Christopher Deliso

Italian authorities are concerned about a possible link between the Madrid bombers, Al Qaeda and Bosnia, reports Croatia’s Slobodna Dalmacija newspaper.

According to their investigation, mujahedin who participated in the Bosnian civil wars were imported from an al Qaeda training camp near Zenica to help with the bombings in Madrid, and other attacks possibly being planned for the future.

“Their road was from Zenica through Split to Ancona,” says the paper, citing Italian authorities who point to the Balkan map found in the Madrid apartment of Syrian-born terrorist mastermind Edin Barakat Yarkas, also know as Abu Dahdah, following the September 11th 2001 attacks. The map highlighted training camps and transport routes from Bosnia to Western Europe.

At the time of his arrest, the BBC described Yarkas thus: “police allege he is the head of al-Qaeda in Spain, and was in contact with other cells in Europe. It is known that Abu Dada and some of the other al-Qaeda suspects came to pray at Madrid’s main mosque.”

Less than 3 years later, the possibility of an al Qaeda that was denied by Spanish leaders in 2001 was realized in bloody fashion on March 11th.

Now, Italian authorities are demanding future EU security meetings to concentrate on the Balkan connection, says the Croatian paper from the alleged al Qaeda departure town on the Adriatic, Split.

Yet some Western apologists for Bosnia continue to deny any such terrorist links- at their own peril, charges Bosnian-born columnist Nebojsa Malic, who points out the confirmed existence of several Islamic terrorist organizations in Bosnia, as well as suspicious Saudi influenced and the Islamic propaganda of Bosnia’s former president, Alija Izetbegovic.

Spanish authorities have mostly stressed a Moroccan link behind the Madrid bombing. Yet this is also turning out to be a pan-European phenomenon. The relation between terrorist cells based in Spain and in London has jolted the British government, reported the Guardian one week ago. Now a possible German link is also being investigated.

Another telling detail buried in the Guardian report reinforces the possibility of a different Balkan connection. Describing European governments’ hunt for the Jordanian militant Abu Masab al-Zarqawi, thought to be the “figurehead” behind not only the Madrid bombings but also those in Istanbul, Karbala and Nairobi, the paper considers the involvement of a terrorist group known as “al-Tauhid’ (the Unitarians), which was “loyal to Zarqawi; indeed, many of their key personnel had trained in his camp in Afghanistan in the late 1990s.”

According to the report, German intelligence believes 12 senior al-Tauhid figures were based in Germany, where they procured fake passports and funds for fighters in the Middle East. Yet others were involved with plotting attacks on European Jewish targets, and

“at least one militant liaised with Albanian mafia gangs in a bid to obtain weapons, the dossier reveals. Only a handful of the individuals named in the document have been arrested.”

The specter of Bosnia-trained Islamic terrorists attacking Western Europe while their well-concealed Arab organizers conduct “business’ with equally well-ensconced Albanian Mafiosi is not only alarming- it’s also an expression of everything that has gone wrong for Europe because of Western intervention in the Balkans.

Washington first of all helped import the mujahedin to Bosnia in the mid-90’s who then, despairing of having nothing to do, were re-focused on finding targets in the West even as they began to blend in to regular Bosnian civilian life. And the bombing of Kosovo, with its resulting wide circulation of Albanian refugees throughout Europe- a suspicious number of the “refugees’ being able-bodied and independently wealthy young toughs- has only increased the power of one of the most intractable and unbreakable organized crime rings in the world. The unholy alliance, based partly on extremist ideology and partly on financial gain, suits everyone involved- except the eventual victims of terrorist attacks.

Italian investigators, the Guardian report goes on to say, have discovered Zarqawi’s men in a sleeper cell in Milan. Zarqawi himself is now believed to be coordinating attacks somewhere in Iraq, says the US government, and some of these attacks have been carried out by newly-arrived Zarqawi loyalists from Italy.

USA Today reported last month that several men arrested by Italy’s anti-terrorism team “came from the northern Italian cities of Milan, Parma and Cremona, where investigators say most Islamic extremist activity in the country is centered.”

The rising alarm in Italy over the threat of a terrorist attack comes at a time when allies of President Silvio Berlusconi are calling for new restrictions on and monitoring of the construction of new mosques. A politician from the anti-immigrant Northern League recently stated that

“mosques in Italy are not just places or worship but, ‘sometimes serve as centers of recruitment for terrorists and to spread hatred for the West.’ He called the mosque a political place, which is symbolic of a civilization that has a 1,400 year history of opposition to Western culture.”

As Italy grapples with the idea of a French-style headscarf ban, and the president reiterates his support for the US mission in Iraq, the probability of a symbolic terrorist attack only increases. As a two-direction transit point, Italy must keep up a constant watch- which will mean having one eye constantly fixed on the Balkans.

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