u.s. supported al-queda cells in kosovo & bosnia

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    U.S. supported al-Qaeda cells during Balkan Wars
    Fought serbian troops

    Isabel Vincent
    National Post

    Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda terrorist network has been active in the Balkans
    for years, most recently helping Kosovo rebels battle for independence from
    Serbia with the financial and military backing of the United States and

    The claim that al-Qaeda played a role in the Balkan wars of the 1990s came
    from an alleged FBI document former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic
    presented in his defence before the Hague tribunal last week. Mr. Milosevic
    faces 66 counts of war crimes and genocide.

    Although Hague prosecutors have challenged the veracity of the document,
    which Mr. Milosevic identified as a Congressional statement from the FBI
    dated last December, Balkan experts say the presence of al-Qaeda militants
    in Kosovo and Bosnia is well documented.

    Today, al-Qaeda members are helping the National Liberation Army, a rebel
    group in Macedonia, fight the Skopje government in a bid for independence,
    military analysts say. Last week, Michael Steiner, the United Nations
    administrator in Kosovo, warned of "importing the Afghan danger to Europe"
    because several cells trained and financed by al-Qaeda remain in the region.

    "Many members of the Kosovo Liberation Army were sent for training in
    terrorist camps in Afghanistan," said James Bissett, former Canadian
    ambassador to Yugoslavia and an expert on the Balkans. "Milosevic is right.
    There is no question of their participation in conflicts in the Balkans. It
    is very well documented."

    The arrival in the Balkans of the so-called Afghan Arabs, who are from
    various Middle Eastern states and linked to al-Qaeda, began in 1992 soon
    after the war in Bosnia. According to Lenard Cohen, professor of political
    science at Simon Fraser University, mujahedeen fighters who travelled to
    Afghanistan to resist the Soviet occupation in the 1980s later "migrated to
    Bosnia hoping to assist their Islamic brethren in a struggle against Serbian
    [and for a time] Croatian forces."

    The Bosnian Muslims welcomed their assistance. After the Bosnian war,
    "hundreds of Bosnian passports were provided to the mujahedeen by the
    Muslim-controlled government in Sarajevo," said Prof. Cohen in a recent
    article titled Bin Laden and the war in the Balkans. Many al-Qaeda members
    decided to stay in the region after marrying local Muslim women, he said.

    They also set up secret terrorist training camps in Bosnia -- activities
    financed by the sale of opium produced in Afghanistan and secretly shipped
    through Turkey and Kosovo into central Europe.

    In the years immediately before the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, the
    al-Qaeda militants moved into Kosovo, the southern province of Serbia, to
    help ethnic Albanian extremists of the KLA mount their terrorist campaign
    against Serb targets in the region.

    The mujahedeen "were financed by Saudi and United Arab Emirates money," said
    one Western military official, asking anonymity. "They were mercenaries who
    were not running the show in Kosovo, but were used by the KLA to do their
    dirty work."

    The United States, which had originally trained the Afghan Arabs during the
    war in Afghanistan, supported them in Bosnia and then in Kosovo. When NATO
    forces launched their military campaign against Yugoslavia three years ago
    to unseat Mr. Milosevic, they entered the Kosovo conflict on the side of the
    KLA, which had already received "substantial" military and financial support
    from bin Laden's network, analysts say.

    In the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist strikes on the United States, NATO
    began to worry about the presence in the Balkans of the Islamist terrorist
    cells it had supported throughout the 1990s.

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