February 16, 1996
Web posted at: 7 p.m. EST (2400 GMT)
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (CNN) -- The United States said it has "extremely disturbing reports" of the possible complicity of Bosnian government officials in what NATO forces say is a terrorist camp it raided in a Sarajevo suburb.
State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said Friday the United States is seeking more information from the Bosnian government after receiving reports that government officials may have been involved in activities at the facility.
NATO commanders said they may have prevented terrorist attacks on NATO troops when they arrested 11 men at the home, which a NATO official described as a "terrorist training school." But the Bosnian government said it never posed a threat to IFOR.
No shots were fired in the raid and no one was hurt.
Pentagon sources said three Iranians and eight Bosnian Muslims were taken into custody. Two of the Iranians were said to hold diplomatic passports or papers.
The house is in Bosnian government territory near the town of Fojnica.
NATO said it contained an "extensive armory" of handguns, explosives and rocket-launchers. Pictures taken during the raid show ammunition and weapons stores and explosives hidden in children's toys.
Also found were diagrams of buildings in Sarajevo, and training manuals written in Farsi, according to sources.
Pentagon sources said there was "clear circumstantial evidence" the group was planning possible attacks on NATO forces.
U.S. Adm. Leighton Smith, who heads the NATO-led IFOR peace forces operation in Bosnia, said he was "very disappointed" that such a camp existed and with the activities of the men who have been taken into custody.
"I think it's an abomination ... clearly terrorist training activities," Smith said. He cited a child's toy with plastic explosives in a detonator inserted in it. He said the device he was designed to "blow a child's foot off" when stepped on.
Reacting angrily to both NATO's raid and the implications of the weapons and explosives discovery, the Bosnian government said the building housed a legitimate anti-terrorist facility, but admitted that it was run by Iranians.
Under the Dayton peace accord, all "foreign" soldiers were to have left Bosnia by January 19, and the Bosnian government had given IFOR some assurance that no more Iranian mujahadeen soldiers remained inside Bosnian territory.
Yet after the raid, one Pentagon official said, "You have to assume the Bosnian government was aware of this operation."
Pentagon sources said French forces had been keeping the house, described as a "hunting lodge," under surveillance for weeks. When the French troops were discovered by Bosnian government forces, it was decided the surveillance had been compromised, and orders were given to move in and apprehend the suspected terrorists.
The spokesman said NATO "will not tolerate any such behavior as bomb-making factories or terrorist training camps."
Pentagon officials said they don't know how many Islamic fighters from Iran and other countries are still in Bosnia, in violation of the Dayton peace agreement. One Pentagon estimate puts the number at about 100 Islamic mujahadeen, and between 100 and 200 Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
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