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Wednesday, 20 March, 2002, 13:20 GMT
Police swoop on Bosnian charity
The Zenica division
Zenica was a base for Islamic fighters during the civil war
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By the BBC's Alix Kroeger in Sarajevo
line

Bosnian police have raided the offices of an Islamic charity believed to have links with extremist organisations, including the al-Qaeda terrorist network.

Police seized documents and questioned staff at the Benevolentia International Foundation in Sarajevo and in the central Bosnian town of Zenica.

The raid is part of ongoing efforts to clamp down on Islamic charities which may be channelling funds to al-Qaeda and other extremist organisations.

In January, six naturalised Bosnians were stripped of their citizenship and handed over to the American authorities. Most of them had been working for Islamic humanitarian organisations.

Islamic legacy

The American government has already blocked Benevolentia's assets. Reports by the Bosnian financial police showed that hundreds of thousands of dollars had been withdrawn from the charities' accounts, with no records to show where the money had gone.

There are dozens of Islamic charities in Bosnia - a legacy from the war, when the Islamic world supported the Muslim-dominated Bosnian government.

One of the police vehicles believed to have been used to move the detainees from the prison
Bosnia has already deported several suspected Islamic militants
Earlier this month, the Bosnian government froze the assets of a Saudi backed charity, al-Haramain, and in October police raided the offices of the Saudi High Commission for Relief.

There, they found computer files of potential terrorist targets, street maps of Washington and plans for using crop-duster planes to spread pesticides.

The Saudi High Commission had employed one of the six naturalised Bosnians who were handed over to the US.

US officials say another of the men was Osama Bin Laden's chief lieutenant in Europe.

Security at the American embassy in Sarajevo has now been stepped up.

See also:

18 Jan 02 | Europe
Bosnia suspects headed for Cuba
23 Jan 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Bosnia-Hercegovina
18 Jan 02 | World
Global raids target al-Qaeda
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