VIENNA, Austria NATO-led peacekeepers in Bosnia-Herzegovina believe they have disrupted a Bosnian-based terrorist network and are investigating possible links to Osama bin Laden, a spokesman for the force said yesterday.
The announcement came after a series of detentions of foreigners from Islamic countries over the last three weeks in Bosnia.
“SFOR believes it disrupted a terrorist organization inside of Bosnia-Herzegovina,” said Capt. Daryl Morrell, spokesman for Bosnia”s NATO-led Stabilization Force, or SFOR.
Morrell said the investigation into possible links between bin Laden and the suspected terrorist network was ongoing.
Bosnian police worked with SFOR to capture the suspects. Morrell would not comment on what the network”s targets may have been.
Those detained this month on suspicion of links to terrorist activities include one Jordanian, three Egyptians and six Algerians.
The Jordanian and the Egyptians have been extradited to their home countries.
Two of the Egyptians were wanted on an Interpol warrant that predated the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, said Stefo Lehman, a spokesman for the U.N. mission in Bosnia.
He identified them as Al Sharif Hassam Mahmoud Saad and Al Husseini Arman Ahmed. Lehman said they were wanted in Egypt, but he did not specify on what charges.
The Jordanian was identified as Hamed Abdel Rahim al Jamal.
One of the six Algerians in Bosnian custody, Bensayah Belkacem, was arrested Oct. 8 on the basis of foreign intelligence information that he allegedly made telephone calls to a lieutenant of bin Laden. Police found blank passports from various countries in Belkacem”s possession and took him into custody.
The five other Algerians were detained in the last week after threats were made against the U.S. and British Embassies, forcing them to close.
Local news reports said two of the recently arrested suspects belonged to the Armed Islamic Group, an Algerian terrorist organization, and Egyptian terrorist groups.
One of the Algerian suspects, Saber Lahmar, worked for the High Saudi Commission for Relief, an organization that was raided by SFOR last month.
The soldiers seized computer discs, money and documents.
Bosnian Prime Minister Zlatko Lagumdzija said this week that about 20 people were under police scrutiny for possible terrorist links. Other government officials have said that U.S. intelligence sources had given them a list of about 20 Arab names, and they were checking them.
Bosnia allowed about 1,000 foreign fighters from Muslim countries to enter Bosnia during its 1992-1995 war. Most left after the war, but some stayed, obtaining Bosnian citizenship. A few of those are believed to be linked with terrorist organizations.
“We do have weak borders,” said Lehman, the U.N spokesman. “So it”s easy for people to come into the country and even to seek refuge here. But Bosnia is not an anomaly if you look at the arrests that we”re seeing in Germany, in France, all through Europe,” he said.