26 Jan 2009
Jihad, bought and sold
A convicted jihad terrorist and former Islamic fighter in Afghanistan and Bosnia languishes in an extradition prison awaiting deportation and offering to exchange information with his former Serbian enemies in return for asylum. From ISA.
By ISA staff in Sarajevo for ISA Consulting
He is an Islamic warrior who fought in Bosnia during the war, a fierce follower of jihad who has pledged to die in the name of God, a convicted terrorist and proclaimed al-Qaida commander. Ali Ahmed Ali Hamad is now trying to sell information about atrocities committed by his warriors in Bosnian in return for asylum.
A native of Bahrain, Ali Ahmed Ali Hamad, known during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war as "Ubaidah al-Bahraini, was released on 30 December from a Bosnian prison where he served a 12-year sentence for robbery and terrorism.
Ali Hamad was detained in 1997 and found guilty the following year of organizing a car-bomb attack in the city of Mostar in 1997 - a city divided between Bosnian Croats and Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims). The explosion inflicted heavy material damage to residential housing and vehicles and wounded many, all Bosnian Croats.
His Bosnian citizenship, which he obtained during the war as member of Bosnian Army, has since been revoked, and Ali Hamad has been transferred to an extradition prison pending his deportation to Bahrain.
During the war, Ali Hamad served as a high-ranking officer of the notorious El-Mujahid unit, headquartered in the central Bosnian town of Zenica. El-Mujahid was under the official jurisdiction of the Bosnian Army, though it operated autonomously and was comprised of foreign fighters from Islamic countries.
Unlike others before him, however, Ali Hamad surprised Bosnian officials and his Mujahideen colleagues by pleasing with Serbian authorities (his former enemies) to grant him political asylum in exchange for information about war crimes that were committed against Serbs and Croats in central Bosnia by the El-Mujahid unit.
Though no indictments have been issued against El-Mujahid soldiers, some Bosnian Army officers have been indicted on the basis of superior criminal responsibility for crimes committed against Bosnian Serb and Croat civilians and prisoners of war.
Ali Hamad told local media that he is since "reformed" and is now ready to help "fight terrorism" and Osama bin Laden, admitting that he did "bad things" as an al-Qaida fighter. He also revealed that he was preparing to release a book containing secrets about al-Qaida based on his experiences in Bahrain, Afghanistan and Bosnia.
Serbian authorities have not yet sent an official request for his extradition, but it appears that they are prepared to accept Ali Hamad's offer. The Serbian War Crimes Prosecutor's Office said it would be interested in questioning him. On 20 January, the Serbian consul in Sarajevo, Dragisa Pantelic, visited Ali Hamad in the extradition prison, where they discussed conditions for asylum, according to local media.
However, it seems that his deportation from Bosnia and Herzegovina, either to Serbia or Bahrain, will be delayed for some time. The Bosnian Federation Prosecutor's Office is also hoping to question Al Hamad with regard to a handful of murders allegedly committed by Mujahideen fighters.
According to an ISA Consulting source from inside the Bosnian Federation's anti-terror unit, the prosecution primarily wishes to question Ali Hamad about the murder of a US citizen in the city of Tuzla in November 1995.
The murder of William Jefferson, a librarian and United Nations employee, was originally described as a criminal act, connected with a robbery. However, Bosnian authorities and US intelligence later implied that the murder was an act of terrorism.
The two countries' security agencies suspect that the person who shot and robbed Jefferson was Saudi-born Ahmed Zaid Salim Zuhair, another foreign fighter in Bosnia and member of the El-Mujahid unit.
When he was captured, Zuhair was said to have had Jefferson's gun and watch in his possession, while some witnesses claimed that he was seen in Jefferson's car, which was stolen after he was shot. Zuhair was briefly detained after being involved in a traffic accident, but then fled the country.
He was later arrested in the Croatian city of Rijeka, but managed to escape from custody. Captured again in Pakistan, Zuhair has been held at Guantanamo Bay prison since 2002 without charges. US authorities suspect that Zuahir is connected to the al-Qaida, and among other things, was involved in the 2000 attack on the USS Cole harbored in Yemen.
Interestingly enough, Zuhair was also a suspect in the Mostar bombing, along with Ali Hamad. In April 2000, a Bosnian court sentenced Zuhair to 12 years in prison for terrorism in connection with the Mostar attack.
Both Zuhair and Ali Hamad were also connected to the so-called Algerian Group – six Algerian-born men with Bosnian citizenship who were recently released from Guantanamo. The Algerian Group was suspected of preparing attacks on the US embassy in Sarajevo. In November last year, a US judge ruled that the US government had failed to make a case for holding five of the six men without charges.
Saber Lahmar is one of the five acquitted. Lahmar was married to Ali Hamad's sister-in-law. In October 1997, Lahmar, Ali Hamad and two other men, were involved in two robberies in Bosnia. The four robbed a Croat couple in the city of Travnik and a US military instructor in Zenica.
However, Bosnian Federation authorities granted Lahmar clemency in January 2000 and released him on parole.
For his part, Ali Hamad was sentenced in 1998 to five years in prison for armed robbery. In November 1999, he was sentenced again to eight years in prison for the Mostar attack. It was the first terrorism-related verdict handed down by Bosnia.
Lahmar was arrested once again in October 2001 as a suspect in an alleged plot to attack the US embassy in Sarajevo. Unlike five other detainees, Lahmar never had Bosnian citizenship, residing in Bosnia with permanent residence permit, so therefore Bosnian authorities decided not to accept his return.
In 2005, Ali Hamad agreed to testify against Bosnian Army Commander Rasim Delic and the role of Mujahideen who came to Bosnia and Herzegovina mainly from Arab countries during the war.
The United Nation's International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has sentenced Delic to three years in prison for crimes committed by foreign Islamic fighters against captive Bosnian Serb soldiers during the 1992-1995 war.
Delic's defense argued that he did not have control over the El Mujahid detachment and that they received their orders directly from al-Qaida commanders, bypassing the Bosnian Army. Though Ali Hamad was summoned to the court as witness for the prosecution, he confirmed the defense team's argument, and mocking Delic, referring to him as the "fat general."
Ali Hamad told the court that Delic had no influence over the El-Mujahid, and that only wartime Bosnian president Alija Izetbegovic and the head of the Bosnian Army Third Corp, Sakib Mahmuljin (the liaising officer with the El Mujahid) had earned their respect.
Although the Mujahideen fought together with the Bosnian Army, they never received orders from them, because of preconditions set by Al-Qaeda leaders, who insisted on pre-approval of the offensive.
In his testimony before the ICTY, Ali Hamad also spoke about his involvement in the El-Mujahid unit, where he served as commander. Hamad said that he came to Bosnia from Afghanistan, where he had trained at an al-Qaida military academy.
His fighting experience in Afghanistan recommended him for a job in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Upon his arrival in 1992, he was tasked to command a unit of the El- Mujahid detachment.
During his testimony in the Delic trial, Ali Hamad said that the Saudi High Commission, an agency of the Saudi government, and other Islamist charities supported al-Qaida-led units that committed atrocities. He said the Saudi High Commission had poured tens of millions of dollars into Mujahideen units led by al-Qaida operatives who fought with Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. Money intended for humanitarian relief bought weapons and other military supplies.
The charities also provided false identification, employment papers, diplomatic plates and vehicles that permitted Islamist fighters to enter the country and pass easily through military checkpoints, Ali Hamad said. He added that he was also an employee of the Saudi High Commission for a time and traveled through the war zone in commission vehicles with diplomatic plates.
The "reformed terrorist" was also summoned and gave testimonies in connection to several other terrorism-related and cases. He is also expected to be called as a witness in a lawsuit filed by the law firm of Cozen O'Connor, alleging that Saudi and affiliated charities financed al-Qaida and other groups as they were preparing the 9/11 attacks.
He also gave several interviews to the Serbian and western media from his prison cell, warning of an al-Qaida presence in Bosnia.
According to Ali Hamad, some of his former colleagues from al-Qaida occasionally visit Bosnia with "state" protection. He claimed that al-Qaida had established control over Europe via Bosnia. "Al-Qaida wasn't interested in helping the Bosnian Muslims, they were interested in creating a base that would allow them to increase their radius of operations," Ali Hamad told Western media from his prison cell.
Ali Hamad’s lawyer, Dusko Tomic, said that since he agreed to testify against Delic, his client has been the victim of severe beatings by his fellow radical Islamic inmates. Tomic said that so far there had been three attempts on his client's life, and that even though Ali Hamad is now on al-Qaida "black list," he suspected that former wartime Bosnian authorities were behind the attacks.
According to Tomic, his client passed on information to several western intelligence agencies, and due to his assistance several al-Qaida planned attacks were thwarted and the plotters arrested.
While Ali Hamad indeed played an important wartime role in the El Mujahid unit, his former colleagues are now attempting to downplay his significance, and local radical Islamic websites refer to him now as a traitor who will pay for his jihad treachery.