Home-Grown Terrorism
George Szamuely
New York Press


There was delicious irony in the news that Karim Said Atmani, the alleged associate and former roommate of Ahmed Ressam – indicted last week for illegally carrying explosives into the United States – had a Bosnian passport. By fervently embracing the Muslim cause in Bosnia the United States helped to create an international Islamic terrorist network. The Canadians claim that Ressam and Atmani had been stealing laptops in Montreal and sending the proceeds to Islamic terrorist groups. The French claim that Ressam and Atmani have links to Fateh Kamel – an Algerian who had fought the Soviets in Afghanistan and who may have been involved in a number of armed robberies in France in 1996. Kamel was arrested in Jordan earlier this year and extradited to France.

The story gets a little murky here. Where is Atmani? The Canadians say he was extradited to France in 1998 for his involvement in several bombings there, including one in a Paris subway in 1996. That’s odd, say the French, for Atmani was never extradited to France. Indeed, there is no information linking him to that bombing. Why, only a few months ago, French investigators had come to Canada specifically to interview Ressam and Atmani. Neither man could be found. The French believe that Atmani was deported to Bosnia in 1998. Why then did they come to interview him? And if he has been in Bosnia since 1998 what is his connection to Ressam’s recent entry into the United States with a carful of explosives? Subsequently we learned that Atmani may have returned to Canada after his deportation. According to an AP story, "investigators believe the money raised through the thefts was quickly funneled out of Canada via a sophisticated network passing through France, Belgium, Italy, Kosovo, Pakistan and finally, Algeria." Kosovo! We now have a veteran of the anti-Soviet effort in Afghanistan sitting in a French prison; a man with a Bosnian passport whose whereabouts are a mystery; and money from robberies going to Kosovo, there to finance the terrorism of the KLA. Kamel, Ressam and Atmani, in other words, have spent the last decade and a half promoting U.S. foreign policy.

Bosnia’s emergence as a center of international terror did not come about by accident. The Clinton administration had encouraged Iran to send arms to Bosnia’s Muslims. Iran not only sent arms but also its Islamic militants. In 1996 the CIA claimed that Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic was "on their [the Iranian] payroll." It warned of the growing Iranian presence. Iranian cultural centers, for instance, were "fronts for the Iranian Revolutionary Guards." Yet the administration continued to pour in billions of dollars of aid into Bosnia. All manner of radical Islamic groups made their home in Bosnia. Our old friend Osama bin Laden was issued a Bosnian passport in 1993. In July of this year, as NATO leaders were preparing to journey to Sarajevo to congratulate themselves for having bombed the Serbs into submission, the Independent reported that "Islamic extremists, including followers of the alleged terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, are in Bosnia and pose a security threat to Western leaders descending on Sarajevo." That is ironic! The supposedly secular, cosmopolitan, multicultural Izetbegovic has refused to send the mujahideen home. Radical Islamic groups are believed to have been behind a number of bombings in Bosnia. There was even an attempted assassination of the pope during his visit to Sarajevo in 1997. Police discovered a massive bomb under the roadway just a few hours before the Popemobile was supposed to pass over a bridge. There were no arrests.

Archived Columns by George Szamuely

Home-Grown Terrorism

Who Benefits?

Laws of Return

Embassy Row

Selling Snake Oil

Chinese Puzzle

That Was No Lady, That Was the Times

The Red Tide Turning?

Pat & The Pod

United Fundamentalist States

Let Them All Have Nukes!

Liar, Liar

Gangster Nations

Puerto Rico Libre – and Good Riddance

Leave China Alone

A World Safe for Kleptocracy

Proud To Be

All articles reprinted with permission from the New York Press

Islamic militants have now turned their attention to Chechnya. Here also gangsterism, radical Islam and U.S. support blend happily together. This summer, Chechen armed bands led by Shamil Basayev and his Jordanian ally, Khabib Abdel Rahman Khattab, invaded the republic of Dagestan (which is part of Russia), proclaiming their intention to "liberate" their fellow Muslims "from the rule of Moscow" and help them establish an "Islamic state." Chechnya has already proclaimed itself an Islamic state and introduced Islamic law, the shariah. The radicalization of Islam has been going on for some years in Dagestan thanks to foreign influence. The young go to study at Islamic institutes in the Middle East. Muslim clerics from abroad come to Dagestan and talk of jihad. Earlier this year, the mufti of Dagestan, Said-Muhammad Abubakarov, was assassinated. The reason? He had opposed the radicalization of Islam, even though he favored the introduction of the shariah. He just did not want to pick fights with the Russians.

For years, Chechen bandits have been at the heart of some of the worst crime syndicates in Russia. The Chechens are a lot like the Albanians. Blood is everything. Their world is organized according to kinship. In 1996 Chechnya broke away from Moscow. And it has failed totally as a nation-state. The chief source of income is crime. Chechens regularly steal oil from the pipeline connecting the Caspian and the Black Seas. They counterfeit $100 bills. And they practice kidnapping. Since 1996 more than 1300 Westerners and Russians–including women and children–have been taken hostage. It averages more than one a day. The hostages are usually treated horribly. Ransom is extracted through the use of videos that record torture and dismemberment. Hostages are bought and sold among the various clans like commodities. The Chechens, like the Bosnian Muslims, enjoy the support of Islamic militants from several countries, including Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sudan. The ubiquitous Osama bin Laden is believed to be on hand providing money, arms and training. Indeed, our own State Dept. admitted as much the other day.

The United States government, of course, purports to be deeply concerned about the terrible plight of the Chechens. Last week the hideous harridan of Foggy Bottom announced that she intends to block a proposed $500 million loan guarantee from the U.S. Export-Import Bank to a Russian oil company, Tyumen Oil. The money was to be used to buy U.S.-made oil-drilling equipment. Not for the first or the last time, the harridan’s reasoning was as dishonest as it was dim-witted. Was the problem Russian policy in Chechnya? No, it was not. She could hardly say otherwise. By law, the Export-Import Bank is only permitted to consider two questions: Will the loan produce jobs for U.S. workers? And is the borrower creditworthy? In this case, the answer to both questions was yes. Oil-drilling equipment, moreover, is not really usable for purposes of modernizing nuclear warheads.

Albright’s decision had nothing to do with strategy or Chechnya: she was driven by money and vanity. In 1997 BP bought a 10 percent stake in a Russian oil company called Sidanco. It went bankrupt this year and BP Amoco–as it is now called–sought to acquire Sidanco’s richest oil field, Chernogorneft. However, Tyumen snapped up the oil field at a bankruptcy auction. BP Amoco was enraged, shrieking that it had been kept out of the auction, and lobbied like mad in Washington to try to stop the Export-Import loan to Tyumen. Albright’s mentor is Zbigniew Brzezinski. Brzezinski is today a consultant to BP Amoco. "The Secretary has a broader mandate and in her judgment our national interest does include a serious concern about the rule of law in Russia that we believe was open to question given the nature of the bankruptcy proceedings that had taken place before this loan came forward," waffled a State Dept. spokesman the other day. BP Amoco and Tyumen have now resolved all the outstanding issues between them. Yet the State Dept. continues to block the loan. Evidently, BP Amoco is hoping to squeeze a few more bucks out of the Russians.

"Russia’s history has not prepared its people to feel kinship with the West or to regard its institutions as relevant to them… Democracy…to a Russian spells anarchy," Richard Pipes raved in The Wall Street Journal the other day. Another conservative, George Will, declared on This Week recently: "Well, the unpleasantness over Kosovo was an Orthodox Slav population, the Serbs, brutalizing to an extraordinary degree, a small Muslim state of Kosovo, and that’s exactly what’s happening today with Chechnya." It does not seem to occur to either man today that terrorism, gangsterism, xenophobia, religious intolerance and good old-fashioned looting are being promoted by the West, chiefly the United States. It is the Russians, trying to free Grozny from the rule of criminals and zealots, who are defending Western civilization.

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