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Al-Qaeda on Trial: The Hague and Bosnian Muslim War Crimes (Part 2)

March 17, 2005


By Carl K. Savich

The continuation of yesterday’s piece on the war crimes trials of Bosnian Muslim commanders at the Hague, this article provides vivid examples of mujahedin tactics as well as the fallout of supporting their cause for the US, up to and including the war in Iraq.

The El Mujahed Unit: Makeup, Objectives and Tactics

The mujahedin in Bosnia were “incorporated and subordinated” within the 7th Muslim Brigade when it was formed on November 19, 1992. On August 13 of the following year these holy warriors were organized in the “El Mujahed” Battalion, which was made part of the Bosnian Muslim Army.The Battalion of the Holy Warriors, or Kateebat al-Mujahideen, was “officially mobilized… on the personal orders of Bosnian president Alija Izetbegovic, to whom the unit was directly responsible.”

The Bosnian Muslim military command put this unit in the 3rd Corps area of operations and subordinated it to the command of that Corps. The mujahedin acted as shock troops to spearhead offensives by the 3rd Corps of the Bosnian Muslim Army. Along with the El Mujahed Battalion, the Bosnian Muslim Army contained other irregular paramilitary forces, such as the Black Swans and the Mosque Doves.

The El Mujahed Battalion has been accused by Hague prosecutors of murder, ritual execution, ritual beheading, torture, and imprisonment of Bosnian Serb and Bosnian Croat civilians and POWs. Bosnian Serb and Bosnian Croat civilians and POWS were forced to dig trenches under fire for the Bosnian Muslim Army and were used as human shields during offensive operations of the Bosnian Muslim armed forces. According to the ICTY indictment, “at least 200 Bosnian Croat and Bosnian Serb civilians were killed.” Bosnian Croat and Bosnian Serb POWs were killed and tortured.

The mujahedin unit employed horrific tactics of torture and murder designed to terrify the Christian populations of Bosnia. At the Orasac Camp, which was staffed and run by Saudi and Afghan mujahedin, Bosnian Serb civilian Dragan Popovic was ritually beheaded on October 20, 1993. Other POWs were then forced to kiss his severed head.

ICTY prosecutor Witkopf characterized this as “a beheading that can only be described as a ritual beheading.” Other POWs and civilians were forced to dig their own graves. POWs were terrorized and physically and psychologically abused and mistreated. POWs were also forced to give blood.

The gruesome practice of beheading has long precedent in the Balkans. During the Ottoman occupation of the Balkans, Serbian Orthodox Christians, being kaurin or unbelievers, were ritually beheaded by Muslim Turkish forces in order to terrorize the rayah or Christian population, also defined as dhimmi, a conquered people.

Ritual beheadings were always part of the policies of Muslim occupation forces, who sought to conquer the Christian infidels of Europe. In his propagandizing, Osama bin Laden falsely asserted that the Christians had a lock on crusading. But Islam has been expansionist ever since the time of Mohammed, invading eastern and western Europe, Asia, and north Africa, and forcefully converting the subjugated subjects to Islam. Bosnia was under Muslim Ottoman Turkish occupation for over four centuries. Spain was under Muslim occupation for over 700 years.

Mujahedin Atrocities and War Crimes in Bosnia

Islam is stated to be a religion of peace and compassion. But this is not how Bosnian Serb and Bosnian Croat Christians experienced it. The al-Qaeda and US-sponsored mujahedin were supposed to be there merely to provide protection for Muslims vulnerable to Serb and Croat attacks. Most of them had posed as workers for so-called Islamic humanitarian and charity organizations in order to enter the country. But far from being a force for self-defense, the mujahedin went on the offensive, with the full backing of the Bosnian Muslim government of Izetbegovic, committing widespread war crimes and atrocities on a massive scale against Bosnian Serb and Bosnian Croats, soldiers and civilians alike.

These war crimes demonstrated the contempt the mujahedin had for Christianity and for so-called Western civilization and culture. Evan Kohlmann wrote about “their remarkable fanaticism and blind cruelty.” Mujahedin troops from Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia had “routinely performed crude, disfiguring, non-medical circumcisions on Bosnian Serb soldiers.” An 18-year old Bosnian Serb soldier “was so brutally circumcised that eventually the entire organ required amputation.”

No only were Bosnian Serb Orthodox Christians victims of the mujahedin. Bosnian Croat Roman Catholic Christians were also targeted for torture, death and expulsion. For example, the mujahedin ethnically cleansed all non-Muslims from Zenica, their stronghold and key operational base. In 1992, Dejan Jozic, a 13-year old Roman Catholic Bosnian Croat boy, was captured by the mujahedin and asked: “Why doesn’t your family leave Zenica?” Three mujahedin threw the boy to the ground. The ring finger of his right hand was then amputated. The Jozic family then fled from Zenica after this shocking example of Islamic terror.

The US propaganda machine censored and suppressed these horrific acts of genocide committed by Muslim forces in the name of Islam. The CIA propaganda outlet in Europe, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, similarly covered-up and censored these Muslim war crimes and atrocities committed against Orthodox and Roman Catholic civilians and POWs.

A Bosnian Serb POW described his treatment after the engagements in the Vozuci region on May 27, 1995:

I was captured by a group of 12 mujaheddins including a Bosnia Muslim who served as interpreter… One of the mujaheddins ordered me to kneel down, took out his butcher knife with semi-circular blade and small handle which he held hanging around his neck, on his chest. He wanted to cut my had [sic] off, but the Muslim interpreter intervened, telling him something in Arabic… They put a knife under our necks, as if they were going to cut our throats. Then they brought a cardboard box in which there were two cut off human heads with blood still dripping… One day, they brought us out in the camp area for all the mujaheddins to see us. In my assessment, there were one thousand of them. The lined us up in such a way that we were surrounded by them, and they were singing and shouting something in Arabic. One of them had a knife in his hands and was persistently trying to come close and cut our throats, but two others prevented him. He was foaming with rage.

Another Bosnian Serb POW stated:

As soon as we arrived, the mujaheddins tied us with a hose, into which they let air under pressure, to make it expand and press our legs. This cause terrible pains and Gojko Vujicic swore [to] God, so one mujaheddin took him aside and cut his head off. I did not see what he used for the cutting, but I know that he brought the head into the room and forced all of us to kiss it. Then the mujaheddin hung the head on a nail in the wall.

Bosnian Serb POWs were “held like animals and starved for days, slowly being tortured to death.” Serb POWs were given knives and forced to kill each other or be killed themselves:

[O]nce they fell from wounds, Mujahedeen would decapitate them, with cleavers or chain saws, and those who were still alive were forced to kiss severed heads that were later nailed to tree trunks. Prisoners were hung upside down by ropes, they were nailed, or the Mujahdeen [sic] tied bricks to their testes and penises and pushed them into barrels where they slowly drowned pulled down by the weight of the bricks.

Videotapes were made of these war crimes by the mujahedin and sold to encourage recruits to join their rank
s. Mujahedin also forcefully converted Bosnian Serb POWs to Islam. US reporter John-Thor Dahlburg of the Los Angeles Times was told by a Bosnian Muslim soldier who was a member of the mujahedin forces that the mujahedin “like to kill. Whenever they could kill with their knives, they would do so.”

However, such accounts were exceptional. In general, the US media and Clinton administration censored and suppressed these horrific war crimes and atrocities committed against Bosnian Serb and Bosnian Croat Christians. Why? The Bosnian Muslims were the proxies of the US government, of NATO, and of the EU. In a world where large parts of the Muslim population have long been hostile to the West and especially to America, Bosnia presented a fine opportunity for the US to show its alleged compassion for Muslims. The US media and government carefully concealed and covered up the war crimes that its Muslim Al-Qaeda proxies committed in Bosnia. If that failed, the appropriate media spin was put on the story by US government-sponsored reporters.

But the US media and government were well aware of the war crimes and atrocities that were being perpetrated by their Islamic proxy troops. Nevertheless, this information was censored and suppressed. Instead, the US media and government focused on alleged Bosnian Serb war crimes against Bosnian Muslim troops in places like Srebrenica. Yet (until relatively recently it was least) the fact that the mujahedin had taken over Bosnian Serb towns and villages, had tortured and executed, had ethnically cleansed and displaced Bosnian Serbs and Croats POWs at will has been ignored. Such examples change the whole complexion of the Bosnian civil war. The same justification the US originally used for the mujahedin presence –that is, for self-defense of a vulnerable population – was never granted to Bosnian Christian forces whose populations were living in equal if not greater danger.

What motivated the mujahedin in Bosnia?

The Jihad combatant was necessarily a shahid or martyr, one willing to die for Islam. Many of the Arab mujahedin sought shuhada or martyrdom in Bosnia, dying for the propagation of Islam. By the end of 1992, out of a total mujahedin force of 300 in Bosnia, at least 22 Saudi Arabian mujahedin were killed in combat, along with 12 others from Egypt. In Travnik, 53 mujahedin were killed. Abu el-Ma’ali justified this loss of human life thus: “…the way of Jihad must have its pure blood which Allah picks and chooses to be a fuel for those who are left.”

Many of the mujahedin left “testaments” in case they were killed in battle. Abu Abd Al-Aziz Muntesib, a Saudi mujahedin killed in the Teslic assault of 1992, left a testament that explained why he was waging a jihad in Bosnia:

In the name of Allah, the Benevolent and Merciful!

Praise to Allah and blessings and salvation to the Servant of Allah. May Allah bless and save Him….

I entreat Allah to convey this testament to you while I rejoice with my Lord in the gardens of paradise, happy that Allah is content with me… with my brothers who died a martyr’s death that I yearned for so long and Allah, may he be glorified and exalted…Moreover to exalt his faith and fulfill my desire with the death of my enemies, may Allah curse them! Furthermore, to rejoice at the sight of an Islamic caliphate that will fill the land with its justice, after so much violence.

Oh, my parents, I beg Allah for you to receive the news of my death with joy, because I shall not die for the sake of liberty or out of patriotism, nor any other false aim. On the contrary I shall die, if Allah wills, for the sake of Allah, and erecting the first pillar of Islam, for Islam to spread and take root in the world…

And you, my father, know that a martyr’s death for the eternal goal is the privilege only of those whom Allah has chosen. And, as Allah the Exalted says: “and among you there will be chosen ones who will die a martyr’s death for the holy purpose.” May Allah be praised three times for bestowing and designating me to die a martyr’s death! …

The Exalted furthermore said: “Do not say of those who died for the sake of Allah that they are dead, but that they are living” …

I entrust you to take care that my brothers are raised in the spirit of the jihad, to instill the love of a martyr’s death in them, the splendour of the faith and its words…

This testament of a Saudi mujahedin gives a good picture of the mindset of the Islamic holy warrior and his motivations. The objective of the jihad is to create a global “Islamic caliphate.” However, this fact has been censored and suppressed in US government and media accounts of the Bosnian mujahedin. US propaganda claimed that in Bosnia, at least, the mujahedin acted in self-defense. But this is not so. Al-Qaeda and related mujahedin are aggressively seeking a global Islamic community, a series of interconnected Muslim states from Spain to China. The notion of the separation of religion and state is unknown in Islam, and the mujahedin perceive martyrdom, whether in battle, suicide bombings or other terrorist attacks, as legitimate and appropriate tactics in advancing Islam. They are thus guided by a religious fanaticism and zealotry that is unknown in the West. In Western thought, religion is seen as only one aspect or dimension in defining man. There is a secular and multi-dimensional component to human identity in Western thought. In Islam, man becomes one dimensional. As noted in the mujahedin testament, man lives and dies for only one thing, “for the sake of Allah.”

Steven Emerson presented a report on July 9, 2003 to the 9/11 Commission in which he detailed the activities of the commander of the Bosnian Muslim “El Mujahed” unit, Abu Abdel Aziz Barbaros:

When senior Al-Qaeda recruiter Shaykh Abu Abdel Aziz Barbaros was interviewed in 1994 about his experiences organizing the Arab-Afghan jihad in Bosnia, he explained: I—alhamdulillah [Arabic, “All praise is due to Allah”] —-met several prominent Ulema [Muslim scholar]. Among them…. Sheikh Abdel Aziz Bin Baz… and others in the Gulf area. Alhamdulillah, all grace be to Allah, they all support the religious dictum that “the fighting in Bosnia is a fight to make the word of Allah supreme and protect the chastity of Muslims.”

Abu Muaz al-Kuwaiti, one of the mujahedin commanders in Bosnia, explained why his men were in Bosnia:

As for why we came to Bosnia-Hercegovina, we did not come here except for Jihad in the Way of Allah (Glorified and Most High), and to assist our Mujahideen brothers.

According to Evan Kohlmann, Barbaros told other senior Al-Qaeda members who were assembled at a meeting in Zagreb that al Qaeda’s objective in Bosnia was not to bring humanitarian assistance to Bosnian Muslims, as US propaganda had claimed, but “to establish a base for operations in Europe against al-Qaeda’s true enemy, the United States.” Thus, Al-Qaeda had been manipulating the US all along. Whether they knew it or not, Clinton and his foreign policy team were playing with fire by enabling the foreign mujahedin in Bosnia.

From Bosnia to Iraqi: Al Qaeda Retaliates Against its Former Enablers

The end result of the American aid for the mujahedin, which as is well known began in 1979 in then-Soviet Afghanistan, manifested spectacularly on Septmber 11th, 2001. However, the blowback of both this aid and its continuation in Bosnia goes on even today. The jihadis once active in Bosnia remain at the front lines of the war against America, on the new battleground, Iraq.

Recent reports have claimed that Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda mujahedin veterans from the Bosnian civil wars of the 1990’s
are now killing US troops and Western civilians in Iraq. In a Tanjug news report from December 29, 2004, “French Journalists’ Captors Were Bin Laden’s Veteran from Bosnia”, it was reported that French journalist Christian Chesnot, of Radio France Internationale, along with Georges Malbrunot of Le Figaro, was held by “veterans of Osama Bin Ladin from Bosnia-Herzegovina.” Chesnot was held hostage for four months in Iraq by the “Islamic Army in Iraq.” Chesnot told Tanjug reporters:

Our captors told us they had fought in Bosnia… One of them, a youngish man, aged 30 or so, told us he had been in Bin Laden’s camp in Afghanistan and that he had fought in Bosnia… We realized that this was one of the Arab war leaders that had fired rockets in Bosnia and chanted ‘Jihad, Jihad.’…   We realized also that some of our abductors were members of what we called Planet Bin Laden.

Chesnot stated that one of their abductors played them a tape of Bosnian music and informed them that two Macedonian hostages and the Italian journalist Enzo Baldoni had been executed by the Islamic Organization in Iraq. One of their Arabic captors spoke about the “international jihad,” “Sheikh Osama,” and “the dream of a Muslim state from Andalusia to China, and the fight against Christians.”

Partial Bibliography

Eykyn, George. “‘Mujahidin rush to join Islamic fundamentalists in war.” The Times of London, September 23, 1992.

—Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Second Report Submitted to the Commission of Experts. 1993, IHRLI Doc. No. 28401-29019.

Fisk, Robert. “To Sarajevo, by way of Riyadh.” The Independent, December 22, 1992.

Kohlmann, Evan F. Al-Qaida’s Jihad in Europe: The Afghan-Bosnian Network. Oxford: Berg, 2004.

—”Right of peoples to self-determination: Use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination.” United Nations General Assembly Item 106, Provisional Agenda, August 28,1995.

O’Neill, Brendan. “How We Trained Al-Qa’eda.” The Spectator. September 13, 2003.

Post, Tom with Joel Brand. “Help From the Holy Warriors.” Newsweek, October 5, 1992.

Wiebes, Cees. Intelligence and the War in Bosnia, 1992-1995. Munster, LIT Verlag; New Brunswick: Transaction, 2003.

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