Islamic terrorism and the Balkans

23/01/2015

On January 19, the EU ministers for Foreign Affairs met to approve a better coordination for the fight against terrorism. Cooperation in information, in the fight against arms trafficking, or to create a record of airline passengers, has become a priority for European leaders after the Paris attacks. This cooperation includes the Balkan States but has probably arrived too late for two main reasons: 1st) the Bosnian war (1992-1995) served to introduce in Europe the Arab volunteers – mujahideen (holy warriors) – who would later act as terrorists. Several of the fanatics who perpetrated the 9/11 attacks, including Osama Bin Laden, had the Bosnian passport. 2nd) Bosnia and Kosovo are currently recruiting centres and, along with Macedonia and Albania, are used as a transit route to Turkey by the volunteers heading to the war in Syria or to fight with the ISIS.

The figure of the ‘professional’ jihadist disguised as a mujahideen emerged in the Afghan war against the Soviet Union (1979-1988) when, in 1984, at Pakistan's border with Afghanistan, a network and a strategy for the jihad (holy war) began to be created and which, a few years later, moved to Bosnian territory. The ‘Maktab al-Khidamat’ (Arab Mujahideen Service Bureau) was created by the Palestinian Sheikh Abdullah Yusuf Azzam and the Saudi Osama Bin Laden, and funded by Saudi capital, with the purpose of recruiting volunteers to fight the Soviets. When the Soviets left Afghanistan in 1988 and the Taliban conquered Kabul in 1991, most of the volunteers in Afghanistan were not able to return to their home countries where they were persecuted for their radical Islamism. Those who did not stay in Afghanistan became terrorists or volunteers to fight in Chechnya and Bosnia.

The introduction of some 2,000 mujahideen in Bosnia right before the eyes of EU observers was managed through Muslim NGOs, which also served to launder money for terrorism in Europe and the purchase of weapons. These radicals even managed to have their own brigade – the Mujahideen – at the Seventh Division of the Bosnian Army. The mercenaries were paid a salary by Al Qaeda (established in 1987), which also paid 75 euros per month to each local Muslim who enlisted (a fortune in Bosnia in the 90s). After the war in Bosnia, some Mujahideen stayed in ‘sleeper cells’ (741 had the Bosnian passport) awaiting instructions to attack on European soil, others went to the war in Kosovo and later to Iraq.

The introduction of the jihadists in Bosnia is of course not the only cause of Islamic terrorism in Europe, but it was the starting point of its strategy. The fact that the EU did not prevent it in the 90s shows its failure in preventing Islamic terrorism.