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Context of '1993: Bosnian President Izetbegovic Grants Bin Laden Passport as Gesture of Appreciation'

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Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic grants Osama bin Laden a Bosnian passport “in recognition of his followers’ contributions to Mr. Izetbegovic’s quest to create a ‘fundamentalist Islamic republic’ in the Balkans,” according to an account in a Bosnian newspaper in 1999. (Taylor 12/15/2001) Renate Flottau, a reporter for Der Spiegel, will later claim that bin Laden told her he had been given a Bosnian passport when she happened to meet him in Bosnia in 1994 (see 1994). (Schindler 2007, pp. 123-125)

Renate Flottau.Renate Flottau. [Source: Public domain]Renate Flottau, a reporter for Der Spiegel, later claims she meets Osama bin Laden in Bosnia some time in 1994. She is in a waiting room of Bosnian Muslim President Alija Izetbegovic’s office in order to interview him when she runs into bin Laden. He gives her a business card but at the time she does not recognize the name. They speak for about ten minutes and he talks to her in excellent English. He asks no questions but reveals that he is in Bosnia to help bring Muslim fighters into the country and that he has a Bosnian passport. Izetbegovic’s staffers seem displeased that bin Laden is speaking to a Western journalist. One tells her that bin Laden is “here every day and we don’t know how to make him go away.” She sees bin Laden at Izetbegovic’s office again one week later. This time he is accompanied by several senior members of Izetbegovic’s political party that she recognizes, including members from the secret police. She later calls the encounter “incredibly bizarre.” (Schindler 2007, pp. 123-125) A journalist for the London Times will witness Flottau’s first encounter with bin Laden and testify about it in a later court trial (see November 1994). Members of the SDA, Izetbegovic’s political party, will later deny the existence of such visits. But one Muslim politician, Sejfudin Tokic, speaker of the upper house of the Bosnian parliament, will say that such visits were “not a fabrication,” and that photos exist of bin Laden and Izetbegovic together. One such photo will later appear in a local magazine. Author John Schindler will say the photo is “fuzzy but appears to be genuine.” (Schindler 2007, pp. 124-125, 342) According to one account, bin Laden continues to visit the Balkan region as late as 1996. (Kurop 1/11/2001)

Eve-Ann Prentice.Eve-Ann Prentice. [Source: BBC]In 2006, London Times reporter Eve-Ann Prentice will testify under oath during Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic’s international war crimes tribunal that she saw Osama bin Laden go into a meeting with Muslim Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic. Prentice was there with Der Speigel reporter Renate Flottau waiting for an interview with Izetbegovic when bin Laden walked by (see 1994). Prentice will later recall, “[T]here was a very important looking Arabic looking person is the best way I can describe it who came in and went ahead just before I was supposed to go in to interview, and I was curious because it obviously looked as if it was somebody very, very important, and they were shown straight through to Mr. Izetbegovic’s office.” Curious, Prentice asked around and found out from Flottau and another eyewitness that the person was bin Laden, then Prentice confirmed this for herself when she later saw pictures of bin Laden. Interestingly, the judge at Milosevic’s trial will cut off questions about the incident and there will be no mentions of it by journalists covering the trial, though a transcript of the exchange will eventually appear on the United Nation’s International Criminal Tribunal website. (International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia 2/3/2006) Prentice apparently will no longer be reporting by 2006, but in 2002 she mentioned in passing in a Times article, “Osama bin Laden visited the Balkans several times in the 1980s and 1990s and is widely believed by Serbs to have aided Muslims in the Bosnian war and the Kosovo conflict.” (Prentice 3/5/2002) Bin Laden also visited Izetbegovic in 1993 (see 1993).


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