ATbar Financial Infrastructure of Islamic Extremists in the Balkans
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Financial Infrastructure of Islamic Extremists in the Balkans

09/08/2008 | by Trifunovic, Darko (Dr.)  

The international community is facing a major dilemma concerning the ways and means of combating Islamic extremists. One impediment is that Islamic terrorists use the very sensitive issue of religion to propagate their dark ideas. Fact is that nations that sponsor terrorism, active terrorist cells and the widespread terrorist network – whose methods and activities we have tried to describe in this study –represent a serious threat to the entire humanity. There is no cure for this kind of evil save for international cooperation, exchange of information and prevention. One remedial action could be the multilateral destruction of the Afghan poppy fields, because heroin coming from that country represents 78% of the world production, and is the main source of income to Islamic terrorists. Additionally, nations sponsoring terrorism should face international penalties.


NGOs that have been clearly identified as conduits for terrorism have begun to reappear in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Sometimes they change their names. Some of the most extremists NGOs are the already mentioned Saudi Relief Committee, then Global Islamic Relief, International Aid Organization, Egyptian National Aid, Saudi Islamic Committee and the Islamic Institute. All of these organizations are known to anti-terrorism experts.

An additional issue is with the orphans taken to Al-Qaeda’s terrorist camps in Bosnia-Herzegovina. There are videotapeps, testimonies and documentary evidence of this. One example is the case of Ahmed Zuharir, a.k.a. Handala, whose main contacts in B-H are Omer Stambolic of the Federal police and Haris Silajdzic. This terrorist had the official ID card of the organization called “Charitable Community for Orphans,” but who was he? Zuharir, a Sudanese, is a member of the terrorist group “Gaama’a al Islamyya,” and a former member of the “El Mujahid” unit of the “Bosnian Army.” He was convicted in absentia by the B-H Federation authorities for a car bombing in western Mostar in September 1997. Other participants in this terrorist attack were Ali Ahmadom al-Hamadom, a.k.a. Ubayda, of Bahrein; naturalized B-H citizen Saleh Negil Ali El-Hil, a.k.a. Abu Yemen; Abdullah ba’Awr, a.k.a. Husayfa; and Kal-al-Sheif, a.k.a. Suleyman.All are suspected associates of Osama bin Laden. Handala was never caught, because the Bosnian Muslim authorities connections to the global Islamic terror network. So, the Bosnian Muslim authorities – headed by the late Alija Izetbegovic – entrusted this notorious terrorist with the care of war orphans. Another issue altogether are mujahid’din wives, trained for years in various terrorist camps.

Citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina need help, because they cannot fight against this pestilence alone. One should be careful to differentiate the extremists from the Muslim population in general; one of the extremists’ goals is to foment conflict between all Muslims and modern civilization. This is what the leaders of Al-Qaeda in Kosovo are doing. According to expert information, the top extremists in the area are: Ramush Haradinaj, Hashim Taqi, Ilaz Selimi, Ahmed Krasniqi (Haradinaj’s enemy), Setmir Krasniqi (organized crime) Muxhar Basha, Snu Lumaj, Ismet Bexhet, Remi Mustafa, Nazmi Bekteshi, Xhimshit Osmani, Ramadan Dermaku, Luzim Aliju i Baylush Rustemi. All are connected to imam Omar Behmen. Their funding comes from various sources, but all have in common the Swiss enterprise called “Phoenix,” owned by Qazim Osmonaj. Another man worth mentioning is Abdullah Duhayman, a Saudi citizen, the founder of the “Islamic Balkan Center” Zenica, Bosnia. Duhayman is one of the main contacts and financiers of Ekrem Avdiu of Kosovska Mitrovica, a veteran of the Bosnian war and the founder of UCK’s mujahid’din unit “Abu Bakr Sadeq.”

If the Turks, who are regarded as secular Muslims, were capable of mounting suicidal terrorist attacks on Turkish shoil, one can only wonder what the Balkans Muslim extremists are capable of. Europe and the world are wondering who the next target might be. New warnings keep coming of impending attacks in Europe and the US, although most terrorist attacks are currently limited to the “borderlands.” Right now, the most endangered European nation is France, an unwilling host to a strong Islamic movement driven primarily by the Algerian GIA and its network of North African immigrants. France’s commitment to freedom and tolerance has led it to extend tolerance onto some people who do not deserve it. Unless French authorities take preventive measures, the risk of attack is great. Even though France opposed the war on Iraq, many countries that supported the war have property and interests in French territory. Certainly, they have property and interests elsewhere – but what other European nation has such a widespread terrorist network?

Italy is in danger as well, as it also has a strong terrorist network, focused in Milan. This is confirmed by the recent arrest of four men who were recruiting Islamic militants for Al-Qaeda. Besides, some Italian politicians are supportive of terrorists. Emma Bonino, currently the EU Commissioner for Human Rights, used to be in the management of the NGO “No Peace Without Justice.” This organization declared Bosnian Muslim militant and war criminal Alija Izetbegović as “peacemaker of the year” at one time, and has spread false information about the wars in the former Yugoslavia for years, supporting Islamic fanaticism.

According to the available open and other sources several so called charities and NGO’s are still fully operational in the Balkan regarding terror financing or related activities.

Bosnia-Herzegovina

The U.S. Department of Treasury discovered in October 2002 that several charities operating in Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH) direct their funds to terrorist activities, specifically noting:

· “Benevolence International Foundation” (BIF) – Enaam Arnaut, director of its successor organization “Bosnian Ideal Future,” was convicted in the U.S. for directly aiding Bin Laden;

· “Global Relief Foundation” (GRF) – GRF had modest means in BiH, but still found around $100,000 to fund a camp at lake Jablanica where Muslim youth were taught “essentials of Islam”. Similar summer camps were organized elsewhere in BiH, often with participants from Active Islamic Youth (AIO) ;

· “Vezir” – the Bosnian branch of the Al Haramain Islamic Foundation (AHF)[1].

The Bosnian branch of “Taibah International” first served as a cover for the GRF. One of its former members, Tunisian Ayadi Chafiq Bin Muhammad, was placed on the list of persons directly connected with terrorism by the U.S. Department of Treasury, on October 12, 2001 – as did the organization Al-Мuwaffaq, which he ran during the war, and which was linked to radical Islamic circles in Pakistan. In 1996, Ayadi transferred $500,000 to the Sarajevo SAB bank. He was later arrested in Dublin, Ireland on charges of financing Al-Qaeda. Ayadi was given Bosnian citizenship, and had several Bosnian passports.

It was also established that Vakufska and Depozitna banks[2] of Sarajevo aided and abetted the funding of terrorists in BiH. They were established by Yassin Al-Qadi (see his activities in Albania) and the already mentioned Chafiq Ayadi. These two banks gave assistance to Al-Muwaffaq, “Al Haramain Islamic Foundation” and the “Saudi High Commision for Relief.”

The Vakufska bank covered up the transfer payments from the “Saudi High Commision for Relief” to the private company “Engra d.o.o”[3], owned by Edin Balta.

At the traditional seminar of Islamic youth at the Begov Han mosque in Sarajevo, in early September 2005, the “World Islamic League” (a.k.a. “Rabita”) of Saudi Arabia conditioned its donation of significant funding for projects in the Raska region of Serbia on the ability of the Wahhabi movement to use the religious buildings there. In January and February of 2006 alone, “Rabita” has directed some 150,000 Euros to projects in Raska. Money came from accounts in Mecca to Munich, from where it was transferred to Vienna, arriving to Serbia through a branch of “Societe Generale” in Novi Pazar.

Regional prosecutors in Sarajevo and Zenica opened investigations in July 2007 into possible embezzlement charges against the Muslim charity “Merhamet,” including the allegations of financial aid to the Wahhabi movement in BiH. “Merhamet” allegedly funded Wahhabi organizations and several individuals.

Kosovo-Metohija

The U.S. Department of State and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) have been stationed in Kosovo-Metohija since 1999, and have been monitoring the illegal financial flows in the province, especially funds used for illegal purchase of arms and equipment for terrorist groups in Kosovo-Metohija.

Money originates from Saudi Arabia, where specific individuals courier gold, coins and jewelry that are then sold, converted to local currency, and channeled through pre-determined NGOs.

American members of KFOR arranged a seminar for the high-ranking officials of the Kosovo Police Service in April 2007, covering “Wahhabis in Kosovo.” During the seminar, American representatives asserted that Wahhabism is on the rise in Kosovo, and that in five years Kosovo would become the most significant stronghold of this Islamic sect in Europe. According to them, the greatest concentration of Wahhabis is around Prizren.

A report published by the provisional authorities of Kosovo-Metohija in January 2007 acknowledged the rising presence of Wahhabis and other Islamic factors in the province. Organizations connected to funding of Islamic extremism in Kosovo-Metohija are “Iranian Relief Committeе” in Pristina and “Taibah International Committee” in Prizren. Western analysts claim that “Al-Islamiyya” and “The World Assembly of Muslim Youth” (WAMY) are fronts for extremists from Saudi Arabia. Additionally, the director of “Revival of Islamic Heritage Society” in Pristina, Othman A.O. Alhaidar used to run several “charities” in Bosnia-Herzegovina, starting with the “Revival of Islamic Heritage Society,” General Kuwaiti Aid Committee, '”Dar El-Bir” of UAE, “Yhia Al-Turas,” and “World Islamic Charity.” He was investigated by SFOR/EUFOR in 2005 on suspicion of sending volunteers from Kosovo-Metohija and Albania to Iraq.

Albania

Interest in the presence of radical Islam in Albania and its connection with the authorities was reawakened on April 11, 2007, with the broadcast of a show “Fiks Fare” on state television. The show publicized documents indicating that Abdul Latif Saleh a close associate of Osama Bin Laden, was given Albanian citizenship in 1992 at the personal insistence of then-President, now Prime Minister Sali Berisha[4].

Saleh, a Jordanian, owned construction companies “Mak Albania” and “Cement Albania,” which were used to launder the money of Saudi businessman Yasin Qadi’s “Caravan” association in Tirana. In 2000, Saleh was deported from Albania on suspicion of Al-Qaeda connections, and his bank account in Tirana was frozen after an attempt to withdraw 2.4 million Euros.

There are also numerous indications that several Islamic charities are abusing their activities in Albania to support terrorism. The government investigates allegations about their work solely because of obligations to the U.S. In April 2006, Albania’s anti-laundering directorate froze 63 bank accounts, valued at around 4 million Euro, used for money-laundering and support for terrorism. Albania’s Minister of Interior issued a special order in July 2006 to put special scrutiny the Albanians studying in the Middle East and persons of Arab origin that come back to Albania to vacation with them.

Albanian Minister of Finance Ridvan Bode signed several decrees in July 2006 seizing the accounts and assets of many individuals and charities. Among the seizures were the accounts and properties of Yasin Al Qadi[5], Abdul Latif Saleh, “Taibah International”[6] and “Al Haramain”[7]. At the same time, the anti-laundering directorate began investigating Ahmed Ibrahim Al-Nagar, Hamya Abu Rajan, David Hicks[8], Nabil Abdyl Sayadi, Patricia Rosa Vinck, “Global Relief Foundation” (one account frozen) and “Revival of Islamic Heritage Society” (four account frozen).

In April 2007, a high court in Tirana overruled the decision to seize the accounts and assets of “Albanian International Investment” for lack of evidence that it took part in funding terrorism. Emboldened by the decision, Yasin Al-Qadi appealed[9] the Ministry of Finance’s decision to seize his assets – almost 4 million Euro over the past five years.

However, investigators at the High Crimes Division (HCD) in Tirana have managed to partially uncover a new system of terrorism funding. Assets in peril of seizure on charges of aiding terrorism were turned over to “administrators” – who would then channel the assets back to the original owner. Al-Qadi’s “administrator” in Albania was Jordanian Hamzeh Abu Rayyen.

At the request of HCD, a court in Tirana ordered the seizure of Abu Rayyen’s passport on April 3, 2007, until an investigation into “laundering the proceedings of criminal activities” could be concluded. Many charities close to Islamic terrorist organizations recover from seizures by re-establishing themselves under new management. The “new” managers are local Albanians who studied theology in the Middle East. There are currently 80 religious associations and foundations operating in Albania, with accounts throughout the country in banks such as Arab-Albanian Islamic Bank, Bank of Malaysia, Fefad Bank, and Dardania Bank.

Five foundations have been outlawed because of proven links with terrorism: Al Haramain, World Islamic Relief Organization, Revival of Islamic Heritage Society, Muwafaq and Al Vaffk.


Conclusion:

It is evidential that Al Qaeda establish in the territory of South East Europe (Balkan) fully operational Financial network and logistic for the operation of Financial Committee of Al Qaeda terrorist organization. The Financial Committee has the task to provide the Network’s funding. Fundraising methods differ from place to place, but rely mainly on accounts directly or indirectly available to Osama Bin Laden and the funds provided through the wide network of “humanitarian organizations” which use their charity as a cover for fundraising and recruitment of future terrorists. This committee is also in charge of money transfers[10]. One of its methods is the “hawala” system, where money and other commodities are transferred directly, without the involvement of banks. Such transactions are virtually impossible to trace. Basic funding derives primarily from the production and distribution of narcotics – specifically heroin, which is produced in Afghanistan, then distributed to Western European and US markets through a sophisticated network. One Kosovo Albanian was recently arrested at the Bajakovo border crossing between Croatia and Serbia-Montenegro, in possession of 48 kg of heroin. By and large, Kosovo Albanians are not Islamic fanatics, but as heroin smugglers, they are an important link in Al-Qaeda’s chain. Profits from the heroin trade are also very difficult to trace.

Funds thus obtained are put to use in pursuit of Islamic fanatics’ darkest aims. Al-Qaeda and other organizations act locally, but think globally. For example, the newly established Islamic terrorist organization, LIVO, whose striking fist is the Uzbekistan Islamic Movement, is pursuing the plan for establishing Islamic states – and eventually, the Caliphate – in Central Asia, funded and aided by the Financial and the Military committees of Al-Qaeda.


Notes:

[1] According to EU reports, many Islamic charities that have been banned still operate in BiH – including Al Hаramain, Al Maysed Al Aqsa, and Benevolence International Foundation (BIF). All these organizations were banned in BiH (after direct political pressure from the West) but there are indications they remain active. Specifically noted was BIF, which was blacklisted in the U.S.

[2] In August 2002, Federal Banking Agency aproved the merger of Vakufska and Depozitna banks, owned by Yasin Al-Qadi (44.3%) and “Mahmal Investments” (44.2%), which has been under investigation by intelligence agencies for years, on suspicion of funding terrorism.

[3] Between 1998 and 2000, “Енгра д.о.о” was conducting financial transactions on behalf of an organization linked to Bin-Laden, through accounts with Depozitna and Vakufska banks of Sarajevo (Zenica branch).

[4] Abdul Latif Saleh received Albanian citizenship in just over month; he filed a request on September 17, and received in on October 21, through Decree # 328.

[5] Two accounts of “MediCare” association, one at the “Raiffeisen” bank and the other at the National Trade Bank, both in Albanian currency; and two accounts (one of which was in U.S. dollars) at the National Trade Bank, of “Caravan”.

[6] Three houses of 200-350 sq. meters each in the town of Bulqiza.

[7] One house of 500 sq. meters in Tirana.

[8] David Hicks was in Albania in 1998-99, took part in the war in Kosovo, was captured as a member of Al-Qaeda and detained in Guantanamo Bay.

[9] Both Abdul Latif Saleh and Yasin Al-Qadi were represented in court by Idayet Beqiri, political secretary of the “Front of Albanian National Unity” (FBKSh).


[10] See the testimony of Matthew Epstein and Evan Kolmann before the House Committee on Financial Services, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation: “Progress since September 11, 2001: US achievements in efforts to finance counter-terrorism; funding of Al-Qaeda by Arabian Gulf countries through US-based banks, corporations, and charities”; March 11, 2003