U.S. Demands That Bosnia Expel Foreign Fighters
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ The U.S. government has demanded that Bosnia expel foreign Muslim fighters believed to pose a threat to Americans, a Bosnian presidential aide said today.
Mirza Hajric, an adviser to President Alija Izetbegovic, said the U.S. Embassy made its demand on Thursday, two days before Bosnia’s first postwar, nationwide elections.
The embassy also issued an advisory tersely warning Americans against traveling to the central Bosnian village of Bocinja Donja, 50 miles north of the capital, Sarajevo.
The U.S. Embassy refused to comment on the advisory, which cited ``potential threats to U.S. citizens.″
Hajric said, ``They did mention the village, and say there are some people who `we believe shouldn’t be there.‴
Asked how many foreign fighters might be in Bocinja Donja, Hajric said, ``I think none, according to what we have.″ But he added, ``We’ll go to this village and search carefully.″
A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said about 15 people ``who did not look like the Bosnians″ were believed to be living in Bocinja Donja.
They had threatened NATO-led peace force patrols, drawing their index fingers across their throats and warning: ``You come back, we’ll kill you,″ the official said.
He said the threats had multiplied in recent weeks.
During Bosnia’s 3 1/2-year war, more than 2,000 fighters from Muslim countries in the Middle East battled alongside the Muslim-led Bosnian army.
They were considered a threat to members of the NATO-led peacekeeping force that arrived in December, and their departure was one of the provisions of the Dayton peace accord that ended the war.
But some fighters stayed in Bosnia, and the United States demanded their departure as a precondition for a program to arm and train the Bosnian forces.
President Clinton told Congress in late June that all unauthorized foreign forces had left Bosnia. The arm-and-train program got under way last month.
Many foreign fighters left, but there have been numerous reports that some fighters have stayed behind to settle in Bosnia.
Maj. Brett Boudreau, spokesman for the NATO-led peace force in Bosnia, said threats were made against the peace troops about three weeks ago, but the situation had been resolved.
Another NATO source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said today that tension increased again after a car thought to be used by foreign fighters was spotted near a U.S. facility in Bosnia two days ago.
The source said the car is one being tracked by intelligence officers.