(He has served in various senior capacities in Israel’s intelligence community. He is a research fellow at the International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya and since November 2007, he is deputy head of the National Security Council of Israel. An expert on international and Fundamentalist Islamic terrorism, he has published studies and articles in Israel and abroad and written ten books on the subject)
Copyright: Shaul Shay on line and The Interdisciplinary Center Herzilya Projects, Israel.
The author, Shaul Shay, in his book entitled “Islamic Terror and the Balkans” provides some much needed attention to the Balkans as a conduit for the spread of the Islamic Jihad into Europe. He describes and analyzes the growth of radical Islam in the Balkans from its inception during the years of World War II to the present.
After the collapse of Yugoslavia, Bosnia leader Izetbegovic visited Tehran to expand and solidify relationship with Iran and to pursue his goal of an Islamic Bosnia. In response Iran promised a large amount of economic aid and military aid as well. Bin Laden and Zawahiri and their organizations in 1992 started to build an infrastructure to penetrate the Balkans and to establish Jihadist training camps there. Bin Laden personally visited Bosnia and Albania to examine these terror networks.
Shaul Shay’s excellent work shows to the reader how the Bosnian War between the Muslim and the Serbs provided the historical opportunity for radical Islam to enter in the Balkan Peninsula. The author continues to point out the framework of the mobilization of these entities in aiding the Muslim side in conflict, the operational and organizational infrastructure of Iranian intelligence and the Revolutionary Guards was established as well as those operated by other Islamic terror organizations.
As reported at the book, Islamic charities in the Balkan Peninsula from Saudi Arabia, Iran and other Arab states contributed hundreds of millions of dollars as well as military equipment and supplies to Jihadist organizations in the Balkans. In addition, the author reports that Al Qaeda set up a secret organization, CIRKL, to help in order to move contributed funds to Mujahidin movements and other terror organizations to establish terrorist infrastructure throughout the Balkans.
When War in Bosnia ended, terrorist infrastructure remained in the Balkans and served as a basis for these entities’ intervention in the confrontation that developed in the Balkans in the late 1990s, specifically in Kosovo and FYROM. During the war the Clinton Administration gave the green light to Iran to ship large amounts of contraband into Bosnia in violation of the embargo that was in place. The author estimates that from 1994-1996, 5000 tons of military goods including anti-tank weapons and land to air missiles into Bosnia. It is noteworthy in passing that two of the 9/11 hijackers had links to the Al-Qaeda infrastructure in the Balkans.
Today, as Shaul Shay points out the Balkans serve a forefront on European Soil for Islamic terror organizations (“Balkan alumni”), which exploit this area to promote their activities in Western Europe, Russia and other focal points worldwide.
Shaul Shay’s book is a must for any analyst who studies Islamic Terrorism in the Balkans and wishes to understand the complexities in the region.
Parts of the Introduction
Since the dissolution of Yugoslavia and the outbreak of ethnic conflicts, the area of the Balkans became a focal point of attraction to Islamic terror entities, particularly for some of the Afghan “alumni.” In the course of the civil war in Bosnia, the Muslim world rose the aid of the Muslim minority, and countries like Iran, Libya, and Saudi Arabia sent money, humanitarian aid, and weaponry to the Muslim side, thus circumventing the UN embargo on arms shipments to the fighting parties. In the framework of the mobilization of the Muslim world on behalf of the struggle of the Muslim minority in Bosnia, volunteers arrived in the country, mainly Afghan “alumni”, and their numbers were estimated at several thousand fighters. Initially, the volunteers joined the various Bosnian militias that fought the Serbs, but they were quickly incorporated into special units that were established for them (the Mujahidin brigades), with the blessing of Ilia Izetbegovic, leader of the Muslims in Bosnia, who appointed himself their honorary commander.
The Islamic volunteers were also involved in many atrocities and cruel acts against the Serbs forces and the Serb civilian population, for which there of the Mujahidin brigade commanders are currently being tried in The Hague for crimes against humanity.
In November 1995, the war in Bosnnia ended in the Dayton Agreements and Bosnia-Herzegovina was divided into two political identities, a Croatian Muslim federation with a Muslim majority and a Croatian minority, and the Serb Republic (SRPSKA) with a Serb majority. At the of the war, the Bosnian government was required to disarm the Mujahidin brigades and expel them from the country, but the Bosnian government ignored this demand, claiming that Bosnian law makes anyone who fought for the independence of Muslim Bosnia eligible for Bosnian citizenship, and also these fighters are eligible for citizenship due to the moral debt that the Muslim society in Bosnia owed those who came to its aid during wartime.
Today, Bosnia serves as a focus for the activities of Muslim extremists due to the government’s weakness, the lack of public security, unenforced law and order, economic backwardness, corrupt public institutions, and extensive infrastructure of organized crime. These reasons, alongside the existence of border crossing points, most of which are not under any effective government control, turn Bosnia into a convenient focal point for criminal and terrorist activity. For the moment there is no indication of significant terror activity on Bosnian soil, mainly due to the aspiration of extremist Islamic entities to use Bosnia as a haven and safe passage for terror activists.
It is evident that not only Bosnia, but also additional Muslim focal points in the Balkans such as Albania, Kosovo, and Macedonia (FYROM), have become havens and hothouses for radical Islamic terror entities and will continue to serve as a focus for the threat of Islamic terror against the West.
Thus, this study attempts to illuminate the processes that caused the Balkans to become a focal point of Islamic terror in Europe and the threats that are posed due to this phenomenon. This study analyzes the roots of radical Islamic terror in the Balkans as well as the processes that led to the strengthening of Islamic terror infrastructure in this region. The book does not discuss history or provide an analysis of the wars in the Balkans (in Bosnia, Kosovo, FYROM-Macedonia), but chooses to focus on the contribution and impact of Islamic terror organizations in the Balkan arena upon the course of the wars and their consequences, and to discuss how Iran and these organizations took advantage of the wars in the Balkans to reinforce infrastructures that serve them today in their activities in Europe and worldwide.