December 4, 1995 in Nation/World

Mujahedeen Loyalties Hard To Pin Down

Associated Press

The region where 20,000 U.S. GIs will be enforcing peace in Bosnia is also patrolled by several groups of Muslim mujahedeen - holy warriors who came to Bosnia to assist the Muslim-led government.

Some mujahedeen joined special units of the Bosnian army. From their base nestled in the stark hills amid coal slag heaps and strip mines above Tuzla, they say they welcome the Americans and hope to receive U.S. training and arms.

But others, more independent units who clashed with British troops earlier this year, are wild cards.

Some mujahedeen in the Bosnian army say they’ve already received clandestine training from former U.S. special forces officers near the small town of Lukavac.

U.S. officials have denied aiding the Bosnians. But one former mujahedeen said he fought alongside two American Muslims, who were acting independently of the U.S. government, on missions behind Serbian lines.

The 9th Muslim Brigade is based at Meskovic, nine miles west of Tuzla, where the Americans may be headquartered.

It is attached to the 2nd Corps of the regular Bosnian army.

A former mujahedeen, Amir Sakic, rejected Western fears that the Bosnian mujahedeen may pose a threat to NATO forces.

“I’m afraid that the American people look at us like some kind of aborigines,” Sakic said.

A threat, however, might come from non-Bosnian mujahedeen units, the most militant warriors, said to include Afghan and Sudanese fighters funded in part by Iran.

They are known to operate near Zenica, in an area now patrolled by British soldiers who will shed their U.N. peacekeepers helmets to become part of the NATO force once the agreement reached in Dayton, Ohio, goes into effect. That is expected after a Dec. 14 signing ceremony.

British soldiers shot one Bosnian mujahedeen, Elvedin Hodzic, six weeks ago during a confrontation.

The British say Hodzic threatened a U.N. armored personnel carrier.

Hodzic’s relatives say he was pushing a wheelbarrow of potatoes across a field and was shot when he approached the British to speak with them.

xxxx BOSNIAN MILITARY FORCES Bosnian government army strength and Bosnian Serb army strength, according to the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies report “The Military Balance 1995-96.”

Bosnian government army 92,000 soldiers and 100,000 reservists 31 tanks, 35 armored vehicles 100 130-mm and 203-mm caliber guns, two 262-mm multibarrel rocket launchers, 200 82-mm and 120-mm caliber mortar shells, 100 anti-aircraft guns including 100 pieces of AT-3 “Sagger” and “Red Arrow” missiles, an unknown number of surface-to-air missiles Five helicopters; three fixed-wing aircraft

Bosnian Serb army about 75,000 soldiers 370 tanks, 275 armored vehicles 730 122-mm and 152-mm caliber artillery, 76 multibarrel rocket launchers, 900 mortar shells, an unknown number of FROG-7 surface-to-surface missiles, anti-aircraft guns and surface-to-air missiles about 20 aircraft, about 24 helicopters

© Copyright 1995 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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