Bosnian war crimes defendant blames al-Qaeda

The UN’s International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) sentenced Bosnian Army Gen. Rasim Delic to three years in prison Sept. 15 for crimes committed by foreign Islamic fighters against captive Bosnian Serb soldiers during the 1992-1995 war. Gen. Delic’s defense team pledges to appeal the verdict, arguing that he did not have control over the Bosnian Army’s El Mujahid Detachment—but that they received their orders directly from al-Qaeda.

The court found Delic was guilty “of failing to take the necessary and reasonable measures to prevent and punish the crimes of cruel treatment committed by the El Mujahed Detachment (EMD)…in the village of Livade and in the Kamenica Camp [central Bosnia] in July and August 1995.” The three-judge panel found that “12 captured members of the Bosnian Serb Army were subjected to various kinds of maltreatment, including severe beatings and electric shocks. The captives were also forced to kiss the severed heads of other detainees.”

He was acquitted of the killing 24 Croat civilians and soldiers in the villages of Maline and Bikosi in Travnik municipality of central Bosnia in June 1993. The judges ruled that Delic had no command relationship over the EMD perpetrators at that time.

Making no attempt to deny the executions and abuse of Bosnian Serbs by El Mujahid, Delic’s defense insisted that all major decisions regarding the Mujahid Detachment were made by the Mujahedeen supreme body, the shura. Vasvija Vidovic, the general’s defense attorney, told ISN Security Watch that the EMD cooperated with the Bosnian Army but was not under its control and command.

During the trial, the prosecution called on former El Mujahid members and commanders as witnesses—who proceeded to mock Delic before the court, referring to him as the “fat general.” They suggested that only wartime Bosnian president Alija Izetbegovic and Bosnian Army Third Corp commander Sakib Mahmuljin, who was the liaising officer with El Mujahid, had earned their respect. The defense team insisted that there was a parallel chain of command for the EMD, who reported to Sheik Anwar Shaban, headquartered in the Islamic Cultural Center in Milan.

“Combat reports were sent to the Islamic Cultural Center in Milan,” the defense counsel said. “Sheik Anwar Shaaban, who founded and ran the Center, was the real authority in the El Mujahid Detachment. The detachment also sent reports to the terrorist organization al-Qaida.”

According to the CIA report cited by ISN Security Watch, Shaaban was a senior leader of the Egypt’s Al-Gama’at al-Islamiyya and had been in regular contact with Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman and al-Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri. The report said that Shaaban was a veteran of the Mujahedeen war against the Soviets in Afghanistan and had obtained political asylum in Italy in 1991.

“We have reliable reports that Shaaban used his cells operations in Milan to raise significant amounts of money from the Islamic community in Italy, ostensibly to help Bosnian refugees,” the CIA report said. “We are certain, however, that a large proportion of these funds were actually diverted to Al-Gama’at al-Islamiyya terrorist operations in Egypt, as well as to build the group’s terrorist apparatus.”

The CIA report alleges that Shaaban ran a training camp some 50 kilometers outside of Milan for fighters heading to Bosnia, and that the Islamic Cultural Institute was al-Qaeda’s main logistical base in Europe. The first group of fighters sent by Shaaban through Milan to Bosnia arrived in the summer of 1992, a couple of months after the war started. (ISN Security Watch, Oct. 3; IWPR, Sept. 19)

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