Police: Bin Laden Supporters May Seek Refuge in Bosnia
A group of up to 70 Afghan supporters of the Saudi-born extremist Osama bin Laden may be seeking to leave Afghanistan and to hide out in Bosnia-Herzegovina, a Bosnian official said Friday, quoting "trustworthy intelligence sources."
"We received information from trustworthy intelligence sources that 70 people linked to bin Laden are preparing to leave Afghanistan and hide in Bosnia," Muhamed Besic, the interior minister of the Muslim-Croat entity in Bosnia, told a press conference.
However Besic stressed that bin Laden's supporters were wrong in their belief that Bosnia was a safe place for them.
"They believe that there is a paradise waiting for them here," Besic said.
"But, I promise to all those linked with terrorism that Bosnia will be a hell for them," he added.
A number of fighters from Islamic countries fought alongside Muslim-led government troops during Bosnia's 1992-95 war.
Some 70 of them were among 420 people of Arabic and Turkish origins who had obtained Bosnian passports.
Bin Laden has been named as the prime suspect in the attacks that killed over 6,000 people in the eastern United States on September 11.
Separately Besic's deputy, Tomislav Limov, said that five people had been placed under police scrutiny at the request of the US embassy in Sarajevo.
"On the basis of our own information, five more people are under police surveillance", Limov said.
Furthermore the state border service had been given information on three people who were to be stopped if they showed up at any of Bosnia's border crossing points, he said.
According to Tomislav Livov, the number of suspects "was increasing", but that there was still not enough evidence to arrest them.
"It is quite likely that in the following hours or days we will take some concrete actions," Limov said.
Besic added that police in the Muslim-Croat federation, one of the two entities that make up post-war Bosnia, was engaged in "good cooperation" with foreign embassies and the NATO-led Stabilization force (SFOR) in gathering information on potential terrorists, and preventing them from entering the country.
Earlier this week SFOR announced support for the global coalition against terrorism. The SFOR chiefs would not say what kind of support would be provided, but said it would be judged on a "case-by-case" basis and in cooperation with local authorities.
"They have their own intelligence centers and are searching for eventual suspects independently from us," Besic said.
"Clearly if we come across people who are engaged in that sort of activity we are going to take action," SFOR spokesmen Daryl Morrell told AFP Friday.
SFOR is tasked with providing security and overseeing the military aspects of the Dayton peace accords that ended the former Yugoslav republic's 1992-95 war.
The Bosnian authorities have repeatedly stressed that they are determined to support the US-led international efforts to fight against terrorism following the September 11 attacks in the United States -- SARAJEVO (AFP)
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