Analysis of the part played in the Bosnian conflict (1992-95) by the 7th Bosnian Muslim Brigade, based in Zenica – the international Islamic mercenary force known as the mujahedeen
“… The first and foremost of such conclusions is surely the one on the incompatibility of Islam and non-Islamic systems. There can be no peace or coexistence between the “Islamic faith” and non- Islamic societies andpolitical institutions. … Islam clearly excludes the right and possibilityof activity of any strange ideology on its own turf. Therefore, there is no question of any laicistic principles, and the state should be an expression and should support the moral concepts of the religion. …”
(page 22 “The Islamic Declaration” book (“Islamska deklaracija”), written by Alija Izetbegovic, Bosnian Muslim leader.)
In preparing the ground for the conflicts between Bosnian Cristians (Croats and Serbs) and Bosnian Muslims, residents of different Arab countries who in the B&H had recognized the elements and challenge of “a holy war” – jihad.
Coming from different Arab countries, most of them were from Yemen, Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia and Afghanistan, and bringing with them experience from a war from some of the Islamic trouble spots.
Mujahedin, or ‘holy warriors’, is a generic term for Muslim volunteers fighting in the former Yugoslavia. Many Mujahedin originate from Muslim countries outside the former Yugoslavia.
It was reported that the Mujahedin began arriving in BiH as early as June 1992. (Tom Post & Joel Brand, ‘Helpfrom the Holy Warriors’, Newsweek, 5 October 1992, at 52).
Reports on the number of Mujahedin forces operating in BiH vary, but it is unlikely that the Mujahedin forces have made a significant military contribution to the BiH Government’s war effort (Christopher Lockwood, ‘Muslim Nations Offer Troops’, Daily Telegraph, 14 July 1993, at 14.)
According to Lockwood, Muslim nations depended on Western logistical support to deliver troops to BiH. He concludes that the same logistical troubles which kept the Muslim troopspromised in July of 1993 from joining UN forces in the UN declared ‘safe havens’ also limited the number of Muslim volunteers in the BiH armed forces. He states that the number of Mujahedin in BiH never exceeded three or four hundred. (See also Mohamed Sid-Ahmad, ‘Muslim World Between Two Fires’, War Report, January 1993, IHRLI Doc. No. 63744.)
However, the Belgrade Daily, Vecernje Novosti, reported that as many as 30,000 Mujahedin were operating in BiH. (‘Other Reports in Brief: Muslims from Abroad Settling in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Belgrade Daily Claims’, BBC, Summary of World Broadcasts, 19 September 1992. )
The Mujahedin forces came from several Muslim states and many of them were veterans of the Afghan war. (Andrew Hogg, ‘Arabs Join in Bosnia Battle’, Sunday Times, 30 August 1992)
Reports submitted to the Commission of Experts alleged that the Mujahedin have been responsible for the mutilation and killing of civilians, rape, looting, the destruction of property, and the expulsion of non-Muslim populations. The deputy commander of the BiH Army, Colonel Stjepan Siber, has said, ‘it was a mistake to let them [the Mujahedin] here . . . They commit most of the atrocities and work against the interests of the Muslim people. They have been killing, looting and stealing.’ (Andrew Hogg, ‘TerrorTrail of the Mujahedin’, Sunday Times, 27 June 1993).
Several reports indicate that the Mujahedin were placed under the command of the BiH Army.(See ‘Some 400 Mujahedin Volunteers Fighting with Bosnian Muslims’, Agence France Presse, 22 September 1992; Andrew Hogg, ‘Arabs Join in Bosnia Battle’, Sunday Times, 30 August 1992; see also Charles McLoed, ECMM, ‘Report on Inter-Ethnic Violence in Vitez, Busovaca and Zenica’, April 1993, IHRLI Doc. No. 20178- 20546, at 20207; Croatian Information Centre, Weekly Bulletin, No. 9, 4 October 1993, IHRLI Doc. No. 36434-36438, at 36435; US Department of State, 1993, IHRLI Doc. No. 62612-62877, at 62648,62724, 62730, and 62756)
The Mujahedin forces were closely associated with the 5th Corps, the 6th and 7th Zenica Brigades, the 7th Travnik Brigade, and the 45th Muslim Brigade which belongs to the 6th Corps in Konjic of the Army of BiH (US Department of State, 1993, IHRLI Doc. No. 62612-62877, at 62648; see also Croatian Information Centre, Weekly Bulletin, No. 9, 4 October 1993, IHRLI Doc. No. 36434-36438, at 36435; ‘Continuing Clashes in Northwestern Enclave Reported from Both Sides’, BBC, Summary of World Broadcasts, 14 December 1993.)
They also allegedly fought alongside the Muslim Police, the Krajiska Brigade from Travnik, units of Kosovo Muslims, Albanian soldiers, and paramilitary groups such as the «Green Legion» and the «Black Swans».(Charles McLoed, ECMM, Report on Inter-Ethnic Violence in Vitez, Busovaca and Zenica, April 1993, IHRLI Doc. No. 20178-20546, at 20207; Croatian Information Centre, Weekly Bulletin, No. 9, 4 October 1993, IHRLI Doc. No. 36434-36438, at36435; US Department of State, 1993, IHRLI Doc. No. 62612-62877, at 62648, 62724, 62730, and 62756.)
Reports also indicate that the Mujahedin had the support of President Izetbegovic and his government. This was demonstrated in the Bihac pocket, where the Mujahedin joined BiH forces loyal to Izetbegovic. Together, these forces battled separatist forces who entered into a separate peace treaty with Bosnian Serbs (‘Continuing Clashes in Northwestern Enclave Reported form Both Sides’, BBC, Summary of World Broadcasts, 14 December 1993)
In Zenica, between 31 August and 2 September 1992, 250 Mujahedin troops allegedly come to BiH from Turkey, Qatar, Bahrain and Iran. These troops worked alongside the Green Legion and HOS paramilitary groups stationed in Zenica. The Mujahedin allegedly also operated a camp at Arnauti.(Charles McLeod, ECMM, Report on Inter-Ethnic Violence in Vitez, Buscovaca and Zenica, April 1993, IHRLI Doc. No. 29043-29131, at 29064; Biljaja Plavsic, Republic of Serbia Presidency, To Serbs All Over the World, 30 September 1992, IHRLI Doc. No. 48072- 48093, at 48081)
It was reported that a unit of the Mujahedin, called the ‘Guerilla’, participated in the 16 April 1993 attack on Vitez and attempted to exchange 10 HVO hostages for foreign prisoners held in HVO prisons. (US Department of State, 1993, IHRLI Doc. No. 62612-62877, at 62629; see also Charles McLeod, ECMM, Report on Inter-Ethnic Violence in Vitez, Busovaca and Zenica, April 1993, IHRLI Doc. No. 29043-29131, at 29072 (attack on Vitez).
The Croatian Ministry of Defence is reported to have provided information about an event occurring in June 1993 — a joint BiH/Mujahedin unit reportedly attacked Travnik, allegedly forcing 4,000 Croatian civilians and military personnel out of the town. (US Department of State, 1993, IHRLI Doc. No. 62612-62877, at 62650. Media reports however claim that Croats left Travnik voluntarily. The incident was investigated by an organization, which reported that the forceful eviction did not take place)
The Mujahedin allegedly fought alongside the 6th Muslim Brigade from Zenica and the Krajiska Brigade from Travnik. Witnesses stated that they saw Mujahedin operating in small patrols ahead of the approaching BiH troops.
According to HVO intelligence, Mujahedin forces arrived in Travnik sometime before June 1993 and came from Algeria, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran. The Mujahedin trained at a camp at Mehurici, where they were allegedly financed and equipped by a man named Abdulah, the owner of the ‘Palma’ video store in Travnik. Once in town, the Mujahedin were linked to the Seventh Brigade of the BiH Army, and were reportedly assembled into units of 10 to 15 men, and moved about on regular patrols.
The Mujahedin created tension in Travnik in the days prior to the attack on 3 June. One witness stated that the Mujahedin directed their actions towards the HVO personnel in town.
They allegedly demonstrated, shouted slogans and fired their rifles in the air.Mujahedin allegedly participated in the attack on Maljine in Novi Travnik on 8 June 1993, killing 20 to 30 HVO members and transporting Croatian women and children to the training centre at Mehurici.(Croatian Information Centre, Weekly Bulletin, No. 1, 9 August 1993)
In Konjic, the Mujahedin were part of a 100 member force stationed at Liscioi and led by Haso Hakalovic. The unit was assembled in February 1993 and included some Kosovo Muslims and members of the Black Swans from the Igman mountain region. (US Department of State, 1993, IHRLI Doc. No. 62612-62877, at 62756)
Allegedly, Mujahedin troops killed and expelled villagers, and looted and burned homes, when they moved against the Jablanica- Konjic area. The Mujahedin troops and members of the Black Swans reportedly conducted occasional raids without members of BiH forces. (at IHRLI Doc. No. 62752 and 62756. The village of Vrci was attacked on 25 May, and the village of Radesine was attacked on 10 June. (See also Tadeusz Mazowiecki, Fifth Periodic Report on the Situation of Human Rights in the Territory of the Former Yugoslavia, U.N. Doc. E/CN.4/1994/47, 17 November 1993, IHRLI Doc.No. 52399-52435, at 52405 (alleging that the Mujahedin were involved in attacks at Kopjari on 21 October, Doljani on 27 and 28 June, and Maljane on 8 June). UN Special Rapporteur Mazowiecki claims that corpses of Mujahedin victims displayed evidence of protracted cruelty and mutilation. )
Reportedly, the Mujahedin volunteers arrived in Konjic in small groups. It was reported that they were from Afghanistan and that they claimed to be students. They were allegedly armed with Hekleri automatic weapons andformer JNA equipment. Some Mujahedin were reportedly former students with no military experience.
Mujahedin forces were present in Mostar since early June 1993. They were reportedly stationed in the Santica neighbourhood on the Muslim/HVO front, where they manned bunkers, usually in groups of six or seven, armed with 7.62 millimetre semi-automatic weapons, machine-guns, and Zolja anti-tank weapons. They were billeted in a building they shared with the Muslim military police on the east bank of the Neretva River. The Mujahedin forces apparently left Mostar on 15 August. (US Department of State, 1993, IHRLI Doc. No. 62612-62877, at 62742 and 62677. For more details on the location of the Neretva living quarters, see Id. at 62739)
FRY reported that the Mujahedin began operations near Teslic in July and August of 1992. Troops from Saudi Arabia allegedly killed three SerbianTerritorial Defence members and placed the victims’ severed heads on poles near the ‘Tesanj turret’. (Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Second Report Submitted to the Commission of Experts, 1993, IHRLI Doc. No. 28401-29019, at 28533)
Beheadings of Serbs by Mujahedin forces have also been reported in other areas.
The Mujahedin were also alleged to be part of the forces that invaded the village of Trusina near Foca on 15 April 1993. According to the report, attackers wore white ribbons on their arms and fought beside Albanian Muslim troops. Twenty-two civilians reportedly died in the attack. (US Department of State, 1993, IHRLI Doc. No. 62612-62877, at 62648; Croatian Information Centre, Weekly Bulletin, No. 9, 4 October 1993, IHRLI Doc. No. 36434-36438, at 36435)
The Mujahedin allegedly performed crude circumcisions upon Serbian police forces, who were later treated by an American surgeon at the Kosevo hospital in Sarajevo. (Letter dated 7 December 1992 from the Deputy Representative of the US to U.N. Secretary-General, U.N. Doc. S/24918, 8 December 1992, IHRLI Doc. No. 3160-3177, at 3173; Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Second Report Submitted to the Commission of Experts, 1993, IHRLI Doc. No. 28401-29019, at 28566)