Publication: Terrorism Focus Volume: 5 Issue: 22


Abu Hamza (Imad al-Husseini), a 44-year-old Syrian native and veteran of Bosnia’s foreign mujahideen, recently gave an interview to the Croatian daily Vercernji List (Zagreb, June 1). The ex-fighter is one of roughly 400 foreign mujahideen who face deportation after being stripped of the citizenship they were granted at the end of the Bosnian civil war (see Terrorism Monitor, November 8, 2007). Abu Hamza suggests the deportation order is the result of political pressure from the United States as well as a number of influential Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims), Serbs and Croatians. In the interview Abu Hamza states: “Please believe me that this circus would never have happened had we accepted the U.S. request to be resettled to Kosova. The Americans did not negotiate directly with us at the time; they did this through the then Turkish cultural attaché, Muvekir. In 1995, at a meeting in a café in Zenica, Muvekir suggested that the entire al-Mujahid brigade be relocated to Kosova because a war was going to break out between the Serbs and the Albanians. We did not want to accept this and become cannon fodder.” Abu Hamza made similar claims in May 2006 (Bosnian OBN TV, May 4, 2006).

The mujahideen, who hailed from Turkey, Egypt, Syria, Tunisia and a number of other Muslim nations, were well known during the conflict for their brutal treatment of Serbian soldiers they believed responsible for raping and murdering Bosniak civilians. As photos circulated of mujahideen holding the severed heads of Serbian troops, the mujahideen were accused of war crimes, an allegation Abu Hamza rejects: “In our squad we had several groups that fought the war only with cold weapons [i.e., steel blades, knives, etc.]; according to their understanding of war, this is the way to instill fear in the enemy. It is absurd to call these warriors criminals, because they only had swords and knives when charging bunkers where soldiers had state-of-the-art weapons.” Abu Hamza claims that the mujahideen fought in the same manner as the Serbs: “The only difference was that we would immediately liquidate the enemy; we never had prisoners of war.” The veteran goes on to say that war crimes were committed by Arab and foreign Muslim fighters in Bosnia, but none of these individuals belonged to the Mujahid Brigade, which was a legally recognized formation within the Bosnian Army’s 3rd Corps: “They were loose cannons who did what they pleased.”

Abu Hamza denies that the mujahideen veterans act as al-Qaeda sleeper cells in Bosnia: “Today they also accuse me without evidence that I am a terrorist and a ‘sleeper,’ although we all know that I would be in Guantanamo if they had but a shred of evidence.” The veteran laments the loss of the former president of Bosnia and Herzogovina, Alija Izetbegovic, claiming that Bosniak attitudes to the mujahideen veterans have changed since his death in 2003: “It is true that they sold us, betrayed us, and used us when they needed us, and that many of our fellow fighters—who today are involved in politics, in espionage, and with the police—turn their heads when they see us.” Rallies of up to 5,000 people opposing Abu Hamza’s deportation have been organized by Ansarije, the Bosnian mujahideen veteran’s association.


Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri released an audiotape last week urging Egyptians to help break the Israeli “siege” of Gaza (, June 5). Released on the 41st anniversary of the beginning of the 1967 June War (known in Israel as “the Six-Day War” and to many Arabs as “al-Naqsa”—the Setback), the 11-minute audiotape was entitled “In Memory of the Setback… Break the Siege on Gaza.”

Al-Zawahiri attacks the secular governments of the Arab world whom he holds responsible for the 1967 defeat and “are still destroying our societies and countries.” He refers to food shortages in Muslim nations such as Egypt, asking why such conditions exist when the Arab world’s enormous oil wealth makes the Muslim nation “the wealthiest nation on the face of the earth.”

The al-Qaeda leader also refers to the steel barrier between Gaza and the Egyptian Sinai that was briefly forced open last January by Hamas militants, urging Egyptians to defy their government to bring relief to the Palestinians of Gaza: “Help your brothers in Gaza and join in their battles with whatever you have. If they start smashing the fence of treason then smash it with them. This disgraceful fence is denying our kinsmen and brothers in Gaza food and medicine, while it opens to welcome 50,000 Israeli tourists who came during Israel’s Passover to engage in corruption on the shores of Sinai.” The latter phrase refers to the resort towns of the Egyptian Sinai, which have become extremely popular with Israeli vacationers despite several bombings in recent years.

An Egyptian himself, al-Zawahiri also condemns the rule of President Hosni Mubarak and the planned succession of Mubarak’s son to the presidency: “Egypt is not a private farm belonging to Mubarak and his son.” Al-Zawahiri goes on to claim Egypt is collaborating with Israel in blockading Gaza: “I say to my brothers in Gaza, those who are putting you under siege are traitors, starting from the soldier in the central security forces who is guarding the treason fence to Hosni Mubarak” (AFP, June 5). Al-Zawahiri has frequently been critical of Hamas, spurring Hamas leader Khalid Meshaal to explicitly reject al-Zawahiri’s “advice,” insisting that Hamas “has its own vision” (BBC, March 5, 2006; Al-Ahram Weekly, July 12-18, 2007).