The arrest of Ratko Mladic has given the western media occasion to recall the Bosnian civil war of the early 1990s and the crimes for which Bosnian Serbs have been held responsible. But – since as a rule they did not report on it in the first place – it is unlikely that they will remind their audiences against just whom the Bosnian Serbs were fighting: namely, a Bosnian government headed by a self-avowed Islamist whose forces were armed by Iran and augmented by foreign mujahideen linked to none other than Al-Qaeda.

On the arming of the Bosnian government forces by Iran – and the role, in particular, of the late American diplomat Richard Holbrooke in forging the relationship – see my earlier article here.

Al-Qaeda’s involvement in the Bosnian “jihad” is well known to Balkan specialists and has even been acknowledged, however obliquely, by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Indeed, when the late Bosnian commander Rasim Delic was tried by the court for crimes committed by the so-called “El Mujahid” unit, Delic’s defense argued that the general was not responsible for the foreign fighters’ atrocities, since their orders came not from him, but rather directly from Al-Qaeda. (See “Al-Qaida’s Bosnian war move”, International Relations and Security Network.)

The court ostensibly rejected this line of defense, insisting that the input of what it daintily termed “foreign authorities” was limited to recruitment of mujahideen and logistical support. Nonetheless, it only convicted Delic on one of the four charges in the indictment and sentenced him to merely three years in prison. Delic had already served nearly half of this time awaiting judgment and he was subsequently released pending appeal. For all intents and purposes, then, the court left the crimes of the El Mujahid unit unpunished.

The atrocities described in the Delic judgment include, for instance, the summary execution and decapitation of a Serb detainee by the name of Gojko Vujicic. After the beheading, the mujahideen displayed Vujicic’s severed head to other detainees. The judgment describes the scene as follows:

Back in the house, a Mujahedin entered the detainees’ room carrying Gojko Vujicic’s head on an s-shaped butcher’s hook. Blood dripped from the head. The Mujahedin threw Vujicic’s head onto Krstan Marinkovic’s lap, then took the severed head from one detainee to another, forcing them to “kiss your brother”. The Mujahedin then hung Vujicic’s head on a hook in the room where it remained for several hours.

Far from hiding their atrocities, the foreign mujahideen in Bosnia made a practice of filming them for purposes of intimidation and propaganda. The point has been noted in both John R. Schindler’s book-length study of Al-Qaeda in Bosnia, Unholy Terror, and in the Norwegian documentary Sarajevo Ricochet, which contains footage of the mujahideen and their victims. A substantial extract from Sarajevo Ricochet with English narration has been made available here by the American journalist J.M. Berger.

The extract includes a remarkable interview that Berger conducted with the former American ambassador to Croatia Peter Galbraith. At the time of the Bosnian war, Galbraith played a key role in signaling the Clinton administration’s “green light” for Iranian arms shipments to Bosnia. The shipments were routed via Croatia. In the interview, Galbraith admits that the administration was aware of atrocities being committed by the mujahideen in Bosnia, but dismisses the atrocities as “in the scheme of things not a big issue.”

The extract also includes images of Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic meeting and greeting mujahideen commanders, including Abu Ma’ali, a youthful El Mujahid “emir” who was later described by a U.S. intelligence official as a “junior Osama bin Laden.” (See quote here in the Los Angeles Times.) Abu Ma’ali would hail the mujahideen’s Bosnian exploits as “a great triumph for Allah,” adding: “We know the day will come when we shall fight against the Jews and that the almighty will give us victory, and we know that the best soldiers will fight against the Christians and that all these promises and joys are from Allah’s prophet” (cited in Schindler, p. 225). The mujahideen reportedly marked one such triumph by ritually beheading some 56 captured soldiers (Schindler, p. 224).

According to Sarajevo Ricochet, Bosnian intelligence documents show that Abu Ma’ali and fellow El Mujahid “emir” Enver Shaban were “in close telephone contact with Al-Qaeda operatives and with Osama bin Laden personally.”

Al-Qaeda members who are known to have fought in Bosnia include 9/11 “mastermind” Khalid Sheikh Muhammad and 9/11 hijackers Khalid Al-Mihdhar and Nawaf Al-Hazmi. Another famous veteran of the Bosnian war is the jihadist filmmaker and reputed financier of the 2002 Bali bombings, Reda Seyam. (On Seyam and the Bali bombings, see my article in Policy Review here.)

Seyam brought his German wife, Regina Kreis, with him to Bosnia. In her memoir Mundtot, Kreis describes watching her husband film the summary executions of Serb prisoners: including one who was decapitated and another who was shot to death by a firing squad of mujahideen wives. (The memoir appeared under the pseudonym “Doris Glück.”) According to Kreis’s testimony, the German-based 9/11 facilitator Ramzi Binalshibh was also present in Bosnia during the war.

Two western journalists – Der Spiegel’s Renate Flottau and the late Eve-Ann Prentice of the Times of London – claim to have witnessed Osama bin Laden himself showing up for a meeting with Izetbegovic at the latter’s Sarajevo office in November 1994. For a transcript of Prentice attempting to testify on the matter before the ICTY – and being immediately cut off by the judges – see here. (Go to transcript page 47949.)

The story of Al-Qaeda’s involvement in the Bosnian war is particularly relevant today in light of the fact that virtually the exact same scenario is currently playing itself out in Libya at a greatly accelerated pace. Now as then, America and NATO have intervened in a civil war in the name of protecting civilians and found themselves making common cause with Al-Qaeda-linked mujahideen. Now as then, America’s de facto allies are not only committing horrific atrocities, they are filming them to boot. Now as then, despite the evidence, those atrocities have gone almost entirely ignored by the western media. Now as then, the atrocities in question bear the distinctive mark of jihad.

(On Al-Qaeda and the Libyan rebellion, see my earlier articles here and here. On rebel atrocities in Libya, see my earlier articles here and here.)

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