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Source: GLOBUS No. 247 (via BosNews), translator: Srecko Bartl, September 1, 1995

Fikret Abdic: Suspected War Crimes and Maneuvers with Arkanovci

At his first press conference after the operation "Thunderstorm", when it was already known that Fikret Abdic, the leader of the self-styled "Autonomous Province of Western Bosnia'"', had been secretly transferred to Zagreb by the Croatian army and put in the "Palace" hotel, when asked if Croatia would extradite Abdic to Bosnia-Herzegovina, President Franjo Tudjman answered that Bosnia had not, so far, requested extradition. Then, as well as in his later statements, President Tudjman said Abdic should be allowed to do business, and in his interview to the daily "Slobodna Dalmacija" of August 28, he stipulated Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic also agreed Fikret Abdic ought to be an amnesty candidate. A court in Bihac had, namely, already convicted Abdic for armed rebellion against lawful authority after the declaration of the so-called Autonomous Province. It is true that Bosnia-Herzegovina has not asked formal extradition of Abdic from Croatia. But Abdic is not forgotten in Bosnia: there has been an on-going investigation at the Bihac Superior Court since March of his possible war crime involvement. A multitude of documents seriously incriminating Abdic were discovered after the liberation of Velika Kladusa. After a report from the 5th Corps of the Bosnian army, on August 2, 1994, Bihac's Assistant District Attorney Rasema Tormanovic requested an official investigation against Fikret Abdic on the allegations of committing crimes against humanity. Based on the enclosed corroborating evidence, Assistant Superior Court President Hasan Pjanic, on March 28, 1995, issued an arrest warrant and trial order for Fikret Abdic.The investigation was ordered on the grounds of a justifiable suspicion that Fikret Abdic committed war crimes against civilian population and prisoners of war and destruction of historical and cultural monuments. The Bihac Superior Court's Investigation Order claims that Abdic, as president of the self-styled Autonomous Province of Western Bosnia, ordered an illegal, largely forced, conscription of the population of Velika Kladusa into the paramilitary formations of "National Defense", attacks on the free territory of B-H, the Bihac district, shelling of civilian targets, starving of population and inhuman treatment of PoWs.

The Superior Court also charges Abdic with the deaths of at least 200 people and wounding of several hundreds, from October 4, 1993 to the capture of Velika Kladusa by the 5th Corps and the end of the Bihac seige, the activity of his militia's artillery in the region of Velika Kladusa, Bihac, Cazin, Bosanska Krupa and Buzim, as well as collaboration with Serbian paramilitary. Fikret Abdic is also charged with organizing concentration camps on the grounds of the "Agrokomerc" livestock farm, deportation and incarceration of civilian opponents of the "autonomy" from Kladusa. Alone in early June 1994, 340 people were imprisoned there, who were subjected to torture, psychological and physical abuse, forced labor on the front line fortifications, etc. During December, 1993, 400 men forced to service in Abdic's militia were taken to the concentration camp of Agrokomerc's "Transport" department in Velika Kladusa. Besides those mentioned above, there were other locations, which, as for the methods applied, do not fall short of the Serb concentration camps in Keraterm, Manjaca or Trnopolje. Particularly cruel was the treatment of the POWs in Drmeljevo, where, again, Agrokomerc's facilities - "Valjaonica" and "Grupex" - had been turned to jails. It is an unofficial estimate of the Bosnian army's 5th Corps headquarters that Fikret Abdic is responsible for the deaths of at least four to five thousand people! Abdic's liability for obstructing arrival of aid convoys and population starving is corroborated by a document, dated November 24, 1993, in which he orders halting of convoys for 10 days, allegedly because of regulation violations by the UNHCR, International Red Cross Committee and other international organizations. That order remained in force until the lifting of the siege of Bihac! As the 5th Corps entered Velika Kladusa only recently, a big part of the confiscated documentation has not yet been delivered to the Superior Court of Bihac. The reason is simple: classification of such a large documentation takes many experienced lawyers. Only a small part has been examined by the authorities. But even that suffices to reconstruct Abdic's activities during his rule in Velika Kladusa.

THE AGREEMENT WITH KARADZIC Less than a month after the proclamation of the "Autonomous Province of Western Bosnia" on September 27, 1993, Fikret Abdic signed an agreement with Radovan Karadzic in Belgrade, known as the Belgrade Declaration. The agreement was made under the auspices of Slobodan Milosevic himself, and it affirms mutual recognition of "Republika Srpska" and "Western Bosnia", establishment of peace and good neighborly relations, as well as cooperation in the domains of politics, economy, transportation, culture and sports. Arrangements were made for opening border crossings, appointing a special Frontier Committee, free civilian traffic and return of refugees (only for Bosnian Serbs and residents of Kladusa), and free passage of aid convoys intended for Abdic and Karadzic. The Declaration emphasized gratitude to Slobodan Milosevic, its "godfather", "for a great contribution to making a just and lasting peace between the Republic Srpska and AP Western Bosnia in Belgrade, on October 22, 1993". Only three months later, January 24, 1994, in Belgrade, "with mediation of the president of the Republic of Serbia, Slobodan Milosevic", Karadzic and Abdic signed a military pact, due to "combat activity of the 5th Corps of Bosnian Army against the Army of the Republic Srpska and National Defense of AP Western Bosnia". However, the document, which would prove Belgrade's direct involvement in Bosnia-Herzegovina, was not co-signed by Milosevic.

[note, (1) Babo (Pop, father in Serbo-Croatian) is Abdic's nickname.]

Globus' source, one of the high-ranking officers at the 5th Corps headquarters, reconstructed the course of military actions taken by Fikret Abdic, in alliance with the armed forces of the former "SAO Krajina" and "Republika Srpska", against the lawful armed forces of Bosnia-Herzegovina. "Immediately after the first defeat of Abdic's forces in August 1994, and the first taking of Velika Kladusa by the 5th Corps, an operation strategy of Serbian army was devised under the code name "Birch Tree". In charge of the operation was Ratko Mladic himself. The goal of the strategy was radical: the conquest of Bihac and complete elimination of the 5th Corps, in order to prevent our forces from connecting with Croatia. They threw in their elite units and attempted to break thru our lines from the direction of Banija in the former "Krajina", toward Buzim and Corkovaca. We are in possession of the original transcript of a meeting of Mladic, Celetkic and Fikret Abdic, held during the preparations for Operation Birch Tree. At this meeting, among other things, Mladic said: 'To the command staff of the 1st Novigrad Infantry Brigade, on August 27, 1994, I order reconnaissance and briefings regarding Birch Tree '94. The international community is determined to impose its solution in the Republic Srpska, thru our enemies, 'brothers' included. No statements on the preparations and results during the operation without Chiefs of Staff Commander's consent. Everything recorded - to the commander's safe. Inflict casualties, crush them. Maximum reconnaissance, as deep as it goes..., examine all crossings over the Una, before the start deploy artillery and anti-aircraft systems at dominating locations ..., prepare the men to carry out orders like soldiers and Serbs ..., collect the spoils in an organized manner ..., describe every death and wounding heroically...'General Celetkic, on the other hand, reports: 'I give 700 mines for 130mm gun, 620 mines for 122mm howitzer, provide artillery support, millions of pieces ofammunition handed over, out of 4500 troops, there was one wounded on the last day...'The Bosnian Army foiled the "Birch Tree" and mounted a counter-strike, getting as far as Kulen Vakuf and the vicinity of Bosanski Petrovac, as well as the left bank of the Una at Bosanska Krupa. The successful action of the 5th Corps forced the allied forces of Abdic and the Serbs to prepare a new counter-offensive, under the command of the army group 'Spider'. This stood for the joint headquarters of the former "Krajina" and "Republika Srpska", with the goal, again, to totally destroy Bosnian army's 5th Corps."Army group 'Spider' was commanded by lieutenant general Mile Novakovic, at the time of "Thunderstorm" the commander of the 39. Krajina Corps, and the Operation Spider staff chief was colonel Cedomir Bulat, who commanded the 21st Kordun Corps during the "Thunderstorm". Operation Spider, as they say at the 5th Corps headquarters, was set up by Milosevic thru Sector 5 of Serbia's SDB (intelligence agency), headed by Jovica Stanisic, Milosevic's one-time envoy to free the UNPROFOR hostages the Serbs had used to blackmail NATO and the international community. Stanisic gave orders, sent advisors to train Abdic's brigades, and provided all the necessary logistics.

The 'Spider' was reinforced with the manpower from the 39th and 21st Corps of Krajina's militia and the 1st Special Forces Corps of the Yugoslav Army, the units commanded by Zeljko Raznjatovic - Arkan. Two of Arkan's most distinguished executioners, Novica Bozovic, self-styled colonel, nicknamed 'Kobac' (hawk), and Milorad Ulemak, called 'Legija' (legion), personally commanded tactical groups II. and III., in which Abdic's units fought, together with the Chetnik police and special forces. Globus' sources also claim that Ulemak personally participated in the incineration of the Croatian villages of Dreznik, Vaganac and Rakovica in 1991.'Hawk' and 'Legion' lead the left and right flank of the joint assault of the Serbs and Abdic's National Defense in the Bihac region. A number of Serb special forces members came from the 1st Special Forces Detachment from the notorious Slunj military compound, disbanded by the "Zagreb Agreement", and subsequently relocated to Velika Kladusa.There is evidence proving Serbian SDB authorized some 17.5 million dollars for Operation Spider. Their intention was to vanquish the 5th Corps within two weeks, in December 1994. As the operation dragged on, Zeljko Raznjatovic - Arkan himself was seen in Kladusa in January 1995, while meeting with 'Hawk' and 'Legion'. Globus' reporters were also presented with an operations map of Operation Spider, showing charted movements of Abdic's and Serbian units and neatly divided areas of jurisdiction, Abdic's militia being an equal partner of all combat activities." In addition to Fikret Abdic, Mile Novakovic, and 'Arkanites' Milorad Ulemak and Novica Bozovic, Operation Spider was conducted by several generals from Serbia. One of them was Frenk Simatovic, the commander of the Special Forces Corps of the Yugoslav Army, who often came to Petrova Gora, coordinated the operation, and inspected the troops.", says Globus' source, and adds: "Participating in the operation also were members of specialized brigades from Serbia, in particular parts of 63. Airborne. Mile Novakovic was in charge of the occupation of Velika Kladusa. Participating in the action were Damjan Prlic, "Krajina" security chief, colonel Bogic, an intelligence operative and Novakovic's loyal assistant back from the time of securing the Serbian Corridor at Brcko in 1992. Furthermore, taking part in the direct operations against the 5th Corps, there were general Stupar, the Special Forces Corps commander and Mile Mrksic himself, from his command post. General Manojlo Milovanovic acted from the direction of Drvar, as well as major general Radoje Tomanic, commander of the 2nd Corps."Fikret Abdic set up the Supreme Command of the 'National Defense' and appointed himself as the commander-in-chief. The chief of staff was Serif Mustedanagic 'Sele'. The force was made up of three brigades commanded by Ramiz Rizvic, also the commander of the special forces group 'Metalnik', which committed a series of war crimes during the first Abdic 'autonomy', Zumret Brkic and Asim Basagic - Zenga. Abdic's brigades were assigned to tactic groups lead by 'Arkanites'.