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Europe
Former Bosnian mujahideen under surveillance
2006-02-18
Authorities are monitoring up to 250 Arab Muslims who fought in Bosnia's 1992-95 war, including some who are suspected of having links to international terrorism, a top police official said Thursday.

Zlatko Miletic, director of police for the Muslim-Croat part of Bosnia, told reporters that the Muslims under surveillance all live in or around the northeastern village of Gornja Maoca, where they settled after the war. Miletic said the Muslims were among 740 who obtained Bosnian passports during or just after the war, and that the names of nine men appeared on Egypt's list of most-wanted terror suspects.

He declined to identify the nine, and said Bosnian authorities could not be certain they were still in the country.

Police are keeping close tabs on ''200 to 250'' of Gornja Maoca's Muslims, and believe some have ties to global terrorist organizations, Miletic said. Others were suspected of involvement in the illegal smuggling of explosives and other crimes, he said, derisively referring to those being watched by police as ``mongooses.''

Several thousand mujahedeen, or Islamic fighters, came to Bosnia to fight on the Muslim side against Serbs and Croats after Bosnia dissolved into ethnic conflict in the early 1990s.

On Thursday, Bosnia's Council of Ministers set up a nine-member commission to review all cases in which citizenship was granted to foreigners dating back to 1992, Security Minister Barisa Colak told The Associated Press.

''It's for sure that all those who got citizenship illegally will be stripped of it and deported,'' Colak said. He also confirmed that ''a certain number of people who are interesting from a security perspective'' were under surveillance.

Bosnian authorities have stepped up their monitoring of fundamentalist Islamic groups and individuals since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

In October, police in Sarajevo raided an apartment and arrested two men after seizing plastic explosives, a suicide belt and a videotape in which a masked man begged Allah's forgiveness for the sacrifice the group was about to commit. More suspects were arrested in Bosnia, Britain and Denmark in what authorities said was a terror cell plotting an attack on a European embassy.

The probe began Oct. 19, when police in Sarajevo arrested Mirsad Bektasevic, 19, a Swedish citizen, and Cesur Abdulkadir, 18, a Turkish national, on suspicion they were preparing terrorist activities. Three Bosnian nationals later were arrested in follow-up raids.

None has been formally charged, and Miletic did not link the surveillance in Gornja Maoca to the Sarajevo case.

''Over the past few months, we gathered enough material evidence to support the filing of formal charges, and I hope the state prosecutor's office will do so soon,'' he said. Under Bosnian law, terror suspects can be held for up to six months without charges.

Bosnian police arrested 16 terrorist suspects in 2005, among whom five were suspected of involvement in international terrorism, Miletic said. He said some were involved in illegal weapons smuggling and that others were charged with endangering international personnel in Bosnia.

About 6,500 troops with the European Union peacekeeping force patrol the country, and hundreds of other foreigners work for the United Nations and other international organizations.

Although the vast majority of Bosnia's Muslims are secular or embrace a moderate and tolerant form of Islam, authorities have expressed concern about the presence of radical elements. Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries have built numerous mosques and set up dozens of charities in Bosnia since the end of the war, including several that have been shut down because of suspected links to terrorism or terrorist financing.
Posted by:Dan Darling

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