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Friday, 18 January, 2002, 15:18 GMT
Bosnia suspects headed for Cuba
Riot police confront protesters outside prison
Supporters of the six confronted police in Sarajevo
Washington has confirmed that six Arab terror suspects handed over by the authorities in Bosnia-Hercegovina will be moved to prison at Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba.

The five Algerians and a Yemeni were spirited out of a Sarajevo prison overnight by Bosnian police after a local court ordered their release for lack of evidence.


Their activity posed a credible security threat to US personnel and facilities and demonstrated involvement in international terrorism

US Embassy in Sarajevo

The US Embassy in Sarajevo did not confirm where the six were being held but said that they had been involved in international terrorism while in Bosnia and had threatened US interests.

The UN has voiced concern at the treatment of the six and their transfer coincided with angry protests in the Bosnian capital.

"The plan is to move them to Guantanamo Bay," a US official in Washington told Reuters news agency.


It violates the rule of law

Madeleine Rees
head of the Bosnia office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

The official was referring to the prison where suspected members of Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda terror network caught in Afghanistan are being held.

The embassy said in its statement that the six had "posed a credible security threat to US personnel and facilities and demonstrated involvement in international terrorism".

One of the police vehicles believed to have been used to move the detainees from the prison
Bosnia has deported other suspected Islamic militants

Bosnia, a US ally, has seen an influx of Islamic militants dating back to the civil war of 1992-95 and has already deported a number of people on suspicion of terrorist links.

The six were reportedly hooded and removed from the prison in two police vehicles, circumventing a crowd of 100 Muslim demonstrators.

The protesters had blocked roads around the prison to demand the immediate release of the six, five of whom have Bosnian citizenship.

Some scuffles broke out between the protesters, many of whom wore veils and other traditional Islamic attire, and police.

Concern

The six were moved from their prison after Bosnia's supreme court ruled on Thursday that there was insufficient evidence against them.

Madeleine Rees, head of the Bosnia office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the operation was "very disappointing".

Nadja Dizdarevic, wife of Budelah Hadz
Friends and relatives insist the six are innocent

"It violates the rule of law," she said.

In October, the US and British embassies in Bosnia were closed down for five days in response to a security threat linked to the US-led war in Afghanistan.

One of the six, Bensayah Belkacem, was accused of having at least one telephone conversation with a senior aide to Bin Laden about getting hold of foreign passports.

The others - named as Mustafa Adir, Sabir Lamar, Muhamed Nehle, Lakdar Bumedien and Budelah Hadz - were arrested on a tip-off which sparked the embassy scare.

Zenica division
Islamic fighters backed the Bosnian Government during the civil war
The lawyer for the six, Fahrija Karkin, has said he will appeal to the Bosnian Human Rights Chamber, a national institution set up under Bosnia's peace agreement, against the deportation of the six.

A lower court has already banned the men's extradition.

The wife of Budelah Hadz, Nadja Dizdarevic, said her husband was innocent and there were no grounds for his extradition .

"If they have been extradited, and these people are innocent, it means that this is not a war against terrorism, this is a war against Islam," she said.

See also:

18 Jan 02 | Americas
Shoe bomb suspect due in court
18 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
US troops arrive in Basilan
17 Jan 02 | England
UK al-Qaeda suspects remanded
19 Jan 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Bosnia-Hercegovina
18 Jan 02 | World
Global raids target al-Qaeda
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