Iranians Detained in Incident Return Home
Iran Calls Detention "Insulting and Inhumane"
TEHRAN, February 21) Three Iranians returned to Tehran on Wednesday (Feb 21) after they were held by NATO forces who raided what they called a "terrorist training camp" in Bosnia, Iran's official news agency IRNA said. Tehran's ambassador to Sarajevo, Mohammad Ebrahim Taherian, accompanied the three Iranians back to Iran and said they were detained for 48 hours "in an insulting and inhumane manner," the agency said.
NATO forces last week detained eight Bosnian government intelligence agents and three Iranians in the raid in government territory west of Sarajevo. Iran had said the centre was an anti-terrorism training camp of the Bosnian police, while Bosnia's Muslim-led government said the camp was an intelligence school being shut down.
IRNA identified the three Iranians as diplomats Mohammad Poursalem, Asghar Alishahi and Ali Jafarzadeh. The third Iranian found in the former ski chalet was released by NATO forces after he produced a diplomatic passport from the Iranian mission in Sarajevo.
A spokesman for the Iranian embassy in Sarajevo said at the time of their detainment, "Iran is proud to have stood alongside the unprotected and attacked people of Bosnia and to help in securing their legal rights. It does not regret any effort made to help these people."
Bombs rigged in children's toys, a cache of weapons and suspected plans to attack NATO buildings were found by French IFOR troops in what NATO called a "terrorist training" camp in Bosnia. The Bosnian government angrily denies the charges, saying that the chalet, 20 miles west of Sarajevo, is an intelligence training school in the process of being shut down. They acknowledge, however, that Iranians staffed the facility.
NATO's action was "unnecessary and inappropriate," said a Bosnian spokesman, adding that only five peoplefour Bosnians and one unidentified foreignerwere present and captured when 250 NATO-led troops raided the facility. Two more foreigners arrived during the raid and were then detained, the statement said. The Interior Ministry, which has never revealed details of its cooperation with foreigners before, said that "foreign instructors" worked periodically at the camp alongside Bosnian teachers from 1993-95.
Nato commander Adm. Leighton Smith toured the site on Thursday (Feb 15), calling it "an abomination," and linking it to the Bosnian government. Smith said he had been told by Bosnian president Alija Izetbegovic that the camp was a former training center for the Bosnian Interior Ministry.
"No one can escape the obvious," said Adm. Smith, pointing at explosive devices built into children's plastic toys including a car, a helicopter and an ice cream cone, "terrorist training activity was going on in this building and it has direct association with people in the (Bosnian) government. What's been violated here is peace," he said. "If someone is training terrorists, there is clearly a threat to all of us."
Iranian Diplomat Expelled
Inside, French troops 3 men carrying Iranian identification. Eight others, revealed later to be Bosnians, were also arrested. An American military official who asked not to be identified told reporters that the Bosnians were students and that the instructors were the three Iranians. "They (the Bosnians) were employed by the ministry of the interior of this state of Bosnia as intelligence operatives," the unidentified American said.
Hundreds of NATO troops were flown by helicopter to central Bosnia today to look for anyone who might have escaped from the camp, a former ski chalet. According to NATO, the camp contained classrooms and a small arsenal of weapons that included rocket-propelled grenades, hand grenades, detonators, blasting caps and large stores of explosives.
Iranian Presence Violates Dayton
The presence of Iranians is a serious violation of a Dayton provision that prohibits the presence of foreign forces in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Many Iranians were brought into Bosnia to help fight rebel Serbs, but their expulsion by January 18th was ordered by the Dayton peace accords.
When NATO troops arrived in December, U.S. commanders were concerned over the presence of Iranian and Afghan Mujahadeen troops, saying they posed the greatest potential threat to American soldiers. U.S. Intelligence has been scouring the country for Mujahadeen ever since.