Balkan Strategic Studies

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March 12, 2004

Madrid Bombings Highlight Extent and Capability of Islamist Networks

Reactivation of Bosnian Support Net for New US Attacks?

Analysis. By Gregory R. Copley, Editor, GIS. A series of tightly coordinated bombings on the commuter rail networks of Madrid, Spain, during rush hour on the morning of March 11, 2004, were clearly linked to the al-Qaida-related group, the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades, which during 2003 and 2004 were engaged in geographically dispersed terrorist bombings in Ankara, Turkey, and against the UN compound in Baghdad, Iraq, in August 2003. More than anything, however, the March 11, 2004, bombings highlighted the extensive European network of the various Islamist groups and gave some indications of further activities.

There is now evidence to indicate a pattern of terrorist attacks during 2004 designed to help remove the governments of Spain, the US and Australia. In this context, in the US and Spanish operations, the Bosnian Islamist terror support network plays a key rôle, and GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs has continued to gain information which highlights this fact. [GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs readers are familiar with the extensive volume of intelligence material on this matter produced over the past decade; much of that is available in the Special Reports and Archival sections of the Global Information System.]

Operations of the magnitude of the March 11, 2004, “Operation Death Trains” (as it was described in the al-Masri communiqué which followed the bombings) require massive support infrastructures. The earlier and most recent al-Masri actions demonstrated a seamless and comprehensive capability which spans Western Europe, and involves networks which have embedded themselves into Western society over the past 15 or more years. In the case of the Iranian aspects of the support network — which not only has supported nominally Shi’i terrorists, but also nominally Sunni (Wahabbi) terrorists — the process of embedding support structures in Western Europe and North America has been underway since 1979, when extremist clerics seized power when the Shah left Iran.

In the case of the latest Spanish attacks, Iran had long coordinated terrorist activities, training and other support measures which linked Spain's ETA Basque separatist terrorist organization with other groups. ETA, which was apparently not represented at the gathering of terrorist organizations in Tehran earlier in 2004, has in the past attended Iranian terrorist conclaves, convened, ostensibly, to discuss the Palestinian issue. In reality, the more-or-less annual gatherings in Tehran — addressed and most significantly supported by the so-called “moderate” Iranian Pres. Hojjat ol-Eslam (Ali) Mohammad, Khatami-Ardakani — are gatherings to facilitate cooperation, training, interoperability and financing of disparate terrorist groups aimed at common enemies, particularly the US.

ETA routinely attends these gatherings, and its members meet with other Shi’ite and Sunni (and non-Muslim) terrorists from other areas. As well, ETA has trained and used Iranian-controlled terrorist facilities in Lebanon’s Beqa’a Valley. However, it is almost certainly the case that ETA was not officially involved in the March 11, 2004, bombings in Madrid, at least from the evidence known thus far. But it is almost certain that some individuals within ETA provided some of the logistical support or local area knowledge for the attacks.

Most significant in the European capability for the range of Islamist terrorist activities is the network built up, mostly since 1990-91, in Bosnia & Herzegovina. This network has become the hub of operations extending into Germany, France, Spain, Britain and elsewhere in Western Europe and North America.

The Bosnian-based operations — which engage a number of different Iranian-run terrorism/insurgency cadres as well as a variety of Arab mujahedin groups as well as direct Bosnian Islamist operations — provided the essential capability for the September 11, 2001, terrorists. That Bosnian network extended to the use of the Bosnia-Herzegovina Mission to the United Nations, in New York.

A September 17, 2003, report in Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily, and entitled Bosnian Official Links With Terrorism, Including 9/11, Become Increasingly Apparent as Clinton, Clark Attempt to Justify Support of Bosnian Militants, noted:

A series of documents, just acquired by GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily, highlight the links between radical Islamists in key positions in the Government of Bosnia-Herzegovina (B-H) and known and suspected Islamists with terrorist links. Significantly, one of the key Bosnian Islamist officials, Huso (he later called himself Hussein) Zivalj, was B-H Ambassador to the United Nations during the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York. He arrived just before the attacks and left the post shortly thereafter.

It is now becoming increasingly clear that the movement of Zivalj to the New York post just before (and his departure just after) the September 11, 2001, attacks was not coincidental.

That extensive report also said:

Significantly, Zivalj, who is regarded as the most important radical Islamist in the B-H networks, working closely with al-Qaida and Iranian terrorist officials, has a US Green Card (permanent residency), and his family is believed to be living still in Florida. Zivalj now is believed to be a director of Islamic Bank, in B-H. He spent some time, during the communist era in the former Yugoslavia, in prison with Alija Izetbegovic, who later became the Islamist President of B-H. Significantly, Zivalj used his position in Vienna to issue, in 1995, a B-H passport to Safet Catovic [Passport No. BH-46600], and GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily has the documentation on this. Earlier, he had issued a B-H passport to Osama bin Laden, head of the al-Qaida networks.

Zivalj had been a Vice-President and member of the governing board of the Third World Relief Agency (TWRA), which had been funded by Osama bin Laden, and with which Sheikh Omar Abd-al-Rahman (the so-called “blind sheikh”) was involved. The Egyptian Sheikh Omar was convicted for his rôle in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing in New York. TWRA was founded in Vienna in 1987 and had links with the Izetbegovic Government in Bosnia-Herzegovina as well as with Dr Hassan al-Turabi and his terrorist operations in Sudan.

This network, which played a key and direct rôle in the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, has been at the center of the so-called "green transversal", the line which runs essentially from Afghanistan through Western Europe to North America, running drugs and arms and supporting Islamist proselytization and terrorism. This network, essentially established and managed with the immense support of the late Bosnia-Herzegovina leader Alija Izetbegovic, remains in existence and is tied directly to both al-Qaida as well as with the Iranian Government, which stations Pasdaran (Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps: IRGC) fighters in organized groups and compounds inside Bosnia.

GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily has provided extensive reporting, with documented details and collateral, on this subject for some years, but particularly during the past year. A number of US and European officials engaged in monitoring the implementation of the 1995 Dayton Accords in Bosnia-Herzegovina, however, have consistently refuted the data, largely because it would imply a failure of their mission and, more significantly, it would imply that the current rundown of peacekeeping forces in Bosnia — to meet needs in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere — should not be undertaken.

Now, however, the messages emanating from Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades and other al-Qaida and Islamist sources is that “al-Qaida” was now 99 percent ready for another major terrorist attack on the United States. In fact, it is not just the amorphous “al-Qaida” — which is merely a convenient catch-all name for the activities now underway — but a heavy campaign to strike at the US and its allies, including particularly Spain and probably the UK (and perhaps Australia), before the US-led Coalition succeeds in helping Iranians remove the radical clerical leaders and find and destroy Osama bin Laden himself. The attack on Madrid, timed three days before general elections, was clearly not a coincidence, and was meant to warn voters that they must pay the price for their Government’s support for the US-led “war on terror”.

A similar campaign was clearly planned for the US in 2004, a year which gives the Iranian clerics the chance to achieve “regime change” in the US. Only the removal of the US Bush Administration would give both the Iranian clerics and the bin Laden hierarchy the breathing space they seek.

GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily reported in 2003 that the Iranian clerics were known to have committed some $200-million to achieving “regime change” in the US. It is not insignificant that a major flow of funds through Albanian-Americans reached now-failed Democratic candidate Gen. Wesley Clark and significant funding is reaching the campaign of Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry through Iranian-Americans, even though the expatriates of both those countries may in large part be unaware why their help had been solicited in funneling funds to the candidates. But the Iranian-bin Laden attempts will go far deeper than that; they will almost certainly include attempts at staging terrorist “spectaculars”.

However, the timing and success of these attacks is critical. Clearly, the attacks must be seen to be overwhelmingly successful, and therefore all planning precautions will be taken to ensure that they do not appear to be “damp squibs” which merely embarrass the perpetrators.

Significantly, there are indications that the Bosnian support network in the United States remains intact and functioning. Even former BH Ambassador to the UN Huso Zivali remains at large; he has a US permanent resident “Green Card” and his family lives in Florida. One of his key functionaries in the build-up to September 11, 2001, Safet Catevic, and who was clearly involved in the US Islamist operations linked to the September 11, 2001, attacks, also remains at large and may still be in the US.

But more significantly, GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs on March 11, 2001, uncovered extensive intelligence material on the background to the current Bosnia-Herzegovina Permanent Representative (Ambassador) to the United Nations, Kušljugic Mirza, a committed member of the Islamist leadership which had conducted the Bosniak side of the civil war with Iranian and bin Ladenist help in Bosnia, and which later was documented to have supported the September 11, 2001, attacks in the US. A translation from the dossier is quoted at length as follows:

Kušljugic Mirza, ambassador of BiH [Bosnia & Herzegovina] to UN, during the armed conflict in former Bosnia and Herzegovina, was a member of the highest leadership of Municipal Assembly of the town of Tuzla and the War Presidency of SDP Tuzla, where he planned, encouraged, ordered, committed or in some other way supported planning, preparations and executing the following:

1. Persecutions of Serbs in the municipality of Tuzla, establishing Muslim authorities based on ethnic and religious background in towns, municipalities and villages where the Serb population lived and worked;

He participated in a national rebellion in the party SDP BiH in Tuzla when Muslims in 1991 and 1992 informally took over the leadership, keeping all other Serb activists isolated from information and real activities. They created the ruling system based on national and religious background, preparing themselves to illegally attack the Serbs.1

As a member of the War Presidency SDP in Tuzla and a member of the War Presidency of the Municipal Assembly (MA) in Tuzla, he contributed, by his deeds and actions, to the ethnic cleansing of Serbs in the region of municipality of Tuzla, which consequently led to a downfall of the number of Serbs from 22,000 to 2,000 in 1995.

Together with the other members of the War Presidency of MA Tuzla, he ordered and supported  illegal mobilization of Serbs although many of them had been incapable for military service and ill, manipulating mobilization in such a way to collect the Serbs on important scientific and professional positions and consequently changing the structure of the authorities.

During 1992, 1993, and 1994 he supported arresting and dismissing from work the respectable citizens of Serb nationality, and refused to protect them.

As a member of the highest leadership of the MA Tuzla, he supported torturing and beating of Serbs who had been regularly coming to work (for example, in the company "Solana" and salt mines).

Together with Ademir Mešetovic, Mevlid Vlaic, Jasmin Imamovic and the others he had been hiding those facts from the foreign politicians and officials of the International Community, humanitarian workers and foreign journalist, as well as hiding the war truth about what was happening in the municipality of Tuzla. In addition, he created a false image on Selim Bešlagic, a president of the War Presidency of MA Tuzla, glorifying his “war charisma” and falsely presenting him in public as a multi-ethnically oriented and democratic politician.

Together with Rusmir Mahmutcehajic he formed an international forum “Bosnia”, which used the motto of democracy, human rights and multi-ethnicity   to cover the position of the absolute domination of Bosniaks in BiH aimed at achieving not - democratic goals in the whole territory of BiH.

2. War Crimes against Serbs (illegal arrests, imprisonment, liquidations, inhuman and brutal treatments)

As a member of the highest leadership of the municipality Tuzla he was acquainted with the fact that the secret lists for arrests and liquidations of Serbs had been made, thus he allowed and supported establishment of private jails in Tuzla kept by jailkeepers Faruk Prcic and Ahmet Šerija Zaimovic. All the members of the Presidency knew what was happening in jails, they refused to prevent torturing and abuse of prisoners. On one occasion when Faruk Prcic shot dead a Serb in premises of the Institute where one of the jails was based, he was told not to do it in that place.

As a member of the War Presidency, Kušljugic knew that the arrests and liquidations of Serbs had been going on but he did not do anything to prevent it nor to take them into his protection. Serbs had been arrested and liquidated in their apartments, houses, streets and factories, and the arrested ones taken to death camps Ljubace and Kladanj. The bodies of the liquidated Serbs had been thrown into pits, and afterwards dug-out and buried in some secret places by special forces of the central party SDA.2

The purpose of those crimes was to eliminate Serbs from a political and public life.

3. Hiding traces of the committed war crimes

As a member of the War Presidency he knew that the bodies of dead soldiers in Trnovo had been dug out next to the Orthodox cemetery. The bodies were removed to different locations three times. Excavations were done by Faruk Prcic and organized by Timun Mumic from the SDA headquarters, while an advisor was Amir Meševic.

4.  Involvement in preparations, planning and organization of attacks on the civilians and religious sites

Kušljugic participated in making decisions on the attacks launched at Dubica and Kalesije, refusing to forbid burning and plundering of Serbs' houses and churches.

In addition, he participated in making decisions on the attacks and cleansing in Caklovici, Simin Han, and Pozarnica where significant numbers of civilians were murdered, houses plundered and burned down; the rest of the population fled, and the Orthodox church was severely devastated (Faruk Prcic, a member of an engineering unit of the Tuzla's brigade, destroyed it), and nothing was done to prevent or forbid such activities.

Together with Sead Avdic and Selim Bešlagic, Kušljugic made decisions to launch attacks on Tinj and Duboki Potok, where they burned down, destroyed and plundered everything on their way with a purpose to make a military and logistic corridor  toward the North and Croatia. Within the War Presidency, Kusljugić was one of the decisionmakers  who launched attacks on Smoluca.3

5. Participation in weapons supplies to Muslims- Bosniaks and preparations of attacks against Serbs

Together with Ademir Mešetovic [Kušljugic] participated in illegal weapons supplies from Croatia in 1991 and 1992, making payments by distribution of newly build flats by "Tehnograd" Tuzla.

As a member of the War Presidency he participated in planning of the attacks launched at a convoy of JNA [Yugoslav National Army] although it had been arranged in advance, on May 15 1992, that the convoy would leave the town of Tuzla in peace;

6. Participated in illegal production an use of prohibited weapons

As a member of the War Presidency of MA Tuzla, Kušljugic participated in making decisions on production of chemical weapons based on chlorine. Adem Tucakovic alias Tuke was in charge of production of chlorine weapons in the "HAK". Shells filled with chlorine were made under the supervision of Faruk Prcic in "TTU". The chlorine shells were produced  in premises of "UMEL" behind the UNHCR field office.

7. Direct cooperation with Islamic fundamentalists

During the war in Tuzla, Kušljugic established a direct cooperation with the representatives of TWRA in Vienna, known for its undemocratic, Islamist, militaristic and intelligence role in the whole world.

8. Other

What gives the best description of Kušljugic’s personality is the fact that in his Cabinet based in premises of Electro-technical Faculty in Tuzla, he keeps stolen paintings of an artist Nezir Corbic from Tuzla. The paintings were stolen from the artist's studio in Tuzla in 1992. Allegedly, Kušljugic has bought the paintings from Cazim Sarajlic, a manager of the gallery of fine arts in Tuzla.

Footnotes to the Dossier

1. The war structure of SDP party and its leadership was a such one that it included only Muslims or rather Bosniaks, having eliminated all the Serbs, Croats and Bosniak- intellectuals who had refused to abide with the policy of a national selection.

2. The list had been made by Adnan Jahic, Rifet Haskic (SDA bought him an apartment), Vedad Spahic - Vana, Salih Brkic (at the time advisor and a coordinator), Meho Krainovic (supported those activities, a refugee from Bijeljina). One of the jails was in a basement of the Institute in Miladije, where distinguished citizens from Tuzla, Serbs, had been tortured and beaten. Only two floors above the jail, in the same Institute building, the War Presidency was based led by Selim Bešlagic. Citizens who resided next to the Institute on daily basis used to hear screams and moans of the tortured people, so they would sent their children away from the Institute. Zaimovic has received a pension from the Government of Netherlands, he freely goes visiting his daughter in the Netherlands, remaining free from any sanctions by the Federation BiH for having committed war crimes. 

3. Immediate carriers and perpetrators of crimes against Serbs were the following persons:

(i)     ŽILIC MEHMED, Chief of Security in the 2nd Corps HQ Army FBiH, so called ABiH, in charge of the death camps in Lubaca and Kladanj;

(ii)     ENES BECIC, today employed as an engineer in Tuzla;

(iii)    JAHIC- brother of SULJO JAHIC, employed in the Headquarters in Tuzla;

(iv)     AVDO MEŠIC (company "Tuzla - Broker")  had given his minibuses for the purpose of arresting and transporting Serbs into the death camps;

(v)     TUFIK SELIMBAŠIC, an armed escort of SIFET KREKIC, used to murder some of the arrested Serbs immediately on the spot. Today, an owner of a sawmill in Brateljevici near the town of Kladanj, enjoying protection of some Cauševic from getting arrested;

(vi)     MEHO BEGIC, at the time in charge of making lists of the Orthodox churches to be destroyed;

(vii)    JASMIN IMAMOVIC, in charge of the action of destroying the building "Borac".

The situation is now that both the Iranian and “al-Qaida” leaderships must move with increasing speed and rapidity if they are to remove their major opponents before they themselves can be removed: 2004 is the decisive year for them both. Striking Madrid on March 11, 2004, was intended to help remove the current Spanish Government of Prime Minister José Maria Aznar at the forthcoming elections. If the Spanish electorate responds by overwhelmingly supporting Sr Aznar’s Popular Party (Partido Popular, PP), then the Iranian and bin Ladenist leadership could conceivably reconsider how it conducted further attacks against, say, the US in the run-up to the November 2004 Presidential and Congressional elections. But if the Spanish electorate is perceived to react in a manner which reproaches Prime Minister Aznar, then the Iranian and bin Laden team would almost certainly move to implement major terrorist “spectaculars” in the US, attempting to show how the Bush Administration had failed to protect the US from terrorist attacks.

Having said that, it is now almost inconceivable that — regardless of the outcome of the Spanish elections — the Iranian and bin Ladenist leadership would not go ahead with attacks on the US in an attempt to influence the elections there. Equally, attacks will almost certainly be held to influence the elections which must be held in Australia before November 10, 2004.

In the interim, the “success” of the March 11, 2004, attacks in Madrid would provide impetus for the attacks which intelligence reporting indicates have been planned for the August 2004 Athens Olympic Games. In attacks on the US and the Olympics, as with the attacks of March 11, 2004, in Madrid, the Bosnian Islamist network plays a crucial rôle. Attacks on the Olympics would risk to a certain degree the operational planning, distribution and safe-have hub which Bosnia has provided for the Islamist push into Europe, just as attacks in Australia would end the safe-haven status of that country for Islamists who have wished to move out of sight.

However, given the fact that both Osama bin Laden and his team, and the Iranian clerics are fighting for their lives, the short-term objective of survival should be expected to prevail over the risk of such attacks to the long-term viability of the safe-haven bases. Indeed, if Iran and bin Laden were to be successful in removing the Bush Administration in the US, the Aznar Administration in Spain and the Howard Administration in Australia, then it is entirely likely that they would have broken the back of their opposition, and the “war on terror” would be sidelined.

The push into Western and Central Europe by the Islamists would then move forward, including a renewed outbreak of war in Bosnia-Herzegovina — to drive the Serbs of Republica Srpska out of that remaining territory in Bosnia — and in Serbia, to remove the Serbs from Kosovo and Metohija as well as the Raška area of southern Serbia; and in Montenegro, to ensure the removal of Montenegrin Christians; and in Macedonia, to ensure the geographic security of the Muslim territory which could provide a clean, almost unbroken link from Afghanistan to the heart of Europe.

In all of this, the Bosnian network is paramount. It has provided weapons and manpower for the conflict against the US-led Coalitions in Iraq and Afghanistan during the past year, and provided the essential infrastructure in Europe which helped the Madrid attacks. Significantly, Bosnia-Herzegovina has in place in its UN Embassy in New York a committed Islamist, already tied to major war crimes. Just as it did in the run-up to the September 11, 2001, attacks. The US did not even investigate the links following September 11; the Bosniak leadership is counting on the fact that the US will not now look into the Bosnian link.