IHT - Raid yields evidence of Croatian spy web in Bosnia, Nato says

Paris, Monday, December 20, 1999

By R. Jeffrey Smith - Washington Post Service

MOSTAR - A wall plaque outside a compact two-story building in the Croat-administered half of this ethnically divided city says it houses the University of Mostar's Agronomic Institute and an import inspection firm. But NATO troops, who recently raided the building and three others here, say its employees are actually intelligence agents of a clandestine, illicit network run by neighboring Croatia.

NATO officials say they have clear evidence that the Croatian government of Franjo Tudjman, who died a week ago, has been secretly paying millions of dollars a month to fund this network. Its aim, they say, was to support Bosnian Croat nationalists who oppose the return of Bosnian Muslims to Croat-dominated areas of the country, and thus keep alive the possibility that Croatia might ultimately be able to annex Bosnian territory.

Some of the money also was used to promote criminal activity, including the apparent counterfeiting of credit cards and telephone debit cards, North Atlantic Treaty Organization officials say.

Mr. Tudjman's territorial aims dated from the 1991-1995 wars that followed the breakup of the old Yugoslav federation - wars in which Croatia first fought Serb separatists on its own territory, then closely supported Croat nationalists in a three-sided war in Bosnia with that republic's Muslims and Serbs.

Although Mr. Tudjman signed the Dayton peace accords in 1995 - which created a Muslim-Croat federation in one half of Bosnia and a Serb ministate in the other half - NATO officials and Western diplomats say he never accepted the idea that Bosnian territory dominated by Croats should be jointly governed with Muslims.

The NATO operation occurred Oct. 14. While U.S. attack helicopters hovered overhead, 1,500 U.S., French, Italian, Spanish and British troops cordoned off the Croat-held section of the city and seized 42 computers, 10,000 documents and truckloads of spying equipment from four targeted buildings.

It was by far the boldest Western action taken against Croat nationalists in Mostar, a city 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Croatian border, which has been divided into Croat- and Muslim-run halves since 1993.

NATO officials say they were pleased with the seizures made in the raid, which included detailed payroll records and copies of letters to Mr. Tudjman from two feuding intelligence chiefs.

A senior NATO official said in Sarajevo, the Bosnian capital, said the raid had uncovered ''prima facie evidence of linkages'' between the Croatian government and local intelligence officials that were designed to influence local politics and undermine the Dayton accords. ''That is illegal,'' the official said.

A small number of illegal weapons also were found, including hand grenades, ammunition and an Uzi submachine gun equipped with a silencer. Computers were confiscated from the purported agronomy institute, where a locked and guarded front door is monitored by a closed-circuit camera, and an armored Mercedes jeep is parked nearby.

Among the documents found there and in a building next door were memorandums spelling out joint responsibility of Croatian government agents and Bosnian Croats for surveillance and possible recruitment of employees of the United Nations, the Red Cross, NATO, the international high representative in Bosnia and the UN War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague.

For example, the documents describe a Sept. 29 operation that involved breaking into rooms rented by tribunal officials in the nearby town of Livno, stealing some documents and planting surveillance equipment to determine whom the officials might be interviewing.

But some of the items seized seem to have more to do with illicit money-making than political skulduggery, suggesting ties between organized criminal groups and hard-line nationalists in the Croat-administered areas of Bosnia. The items included machinery for fabricating credit cards and phone cards.

While only 10 percent of the seized documents have been translated thus far, they ''clearly show that senior officials have made great personal financial gain from these illegal operations,'' an internal NATO summary says.

http://www.iht.com/IHT/TODAY/MON/IN/mostar.2.html

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