Foreign fighters in the Bosnian War
The Bosnian War attracted large numbers of foreign fighters and mercenaries from various countries. Volunteers came to fight for a variety of reasons including religious or ethnic loyalties and in some cases for money. As a general rule, Bosniaks received support from Islamic countries, Serbs from Eastern Orthodox countries, and Croats from Catholic countries. The presence of foreign fighters is well documented, however none of these groups comprised more than 5 percent of any of the respective armies' total manpower strength.
An estimated 2,000–5,000 foreign Muslim fighters fought on the Bosnian side.[a] The Bosnian mujahideen, an independent unit supporting the ARBiH, were primarily formed out of fighters from Iran, Afghanistan and Arab countries, though Muslim volunteers arrived from all around the world.
UNPROFOR recorded a meeting with a number of British and Danish mercenaries fighting for the Muslim side in Travnik.
The Croats received support from Croatia and the Croatian Army fought with the local Croatian Defense Council (HVO) forces. Some external fighters included British volunteers as well as other individuals from Catholic countries who fought as volunteers. Dutch, Spanish, Irish, Polish, French, Swedish, Hungarian, Norwegian, Canadian and Finnish volunteers were organized into the Croatian 103rd (International) Infantry Brigade. British, French, Czech, Canadian served in the 108 Brigade of HVO. There was also a special Italian unit, the Garibaldi battalion. and one for the French, the "groupe Jacques Doriot".
Many extreme right volunteers from Western Europe, mainly from Germany, joined the Croatian Defence Forces (HOS). Although Russians mainly volunteered on the Serb side, the small neo-Nazi "Werewolf" unit fought on the Croat side.
Swedish Jackie Arklöv fought in Bosnia and was later charged with war crimes upon his return to Sweden. Later he confessed he committed war crimes on Bosniak civilians in the Croatian camps Heliodrom and Dretelj as a member of Croat forces.
The Bosnian Serbs received volunteers from Orthodox Christian countries such as Russia and Greece. These included hundreds of Russians, around 100 Greeks, and some Ukrainians and Romanians. One Japanese volunteer is documented. According to ICTY documents, volunteers from Russia, Greece, and Romania fighting for the VRS numbered between 529 and 614. Some estimate that there were over 1,000 volunteers from Orthodox countries. Michael Innes claimed that in April 1994 the VRS consisted of 100,000 men, out of whom 1,000–1,500 were mercenaries from Russia, Ukraine and Bulgaria. Journalist Ljiljana Bulatović claimed that 49 Russians were killed in the war. Mikhail Polikarpov, a historian and participant in the war, numbered Russian soldiers at the hundreds, about 40 of whom died and 20 injured.
Primary Russian forces consisted of two organized units known as "РДО-1" and "РДО-2" (РДО stands for "Русский Добровольческий Отряд", which means "Russian Volunteer Unit"), commanded by Yuriy Belyayev and Alexander Zagrebov, respectively. РДО-2 was also known as "Tsarist Wolves", because of the monarchist views of its fighters. There also was a unit of Russian cossacks, known as the "First Cossack Sotnia". All these units were operating mainly in Eastern Bosnia along with VRS forces from 1992 up to 1995.
In May 1995, the VRS Herzegovina Corps intended to organize an international brigade in eastern Bosnia which gathered between 150 and 600 Greek and Russian mercenaries fighting for 200 German marks monthly.
The Greek Volunteer Guard, who were organized in March 1995 with around 100 soldiers, were reported to have taken part in the Srebrenica Massacre, with the Greek flag being hoisted in Srebrenica when the town fell to the Serbs.
- Abdelkader Mokhtari, Algerian, mujahideen
- Abu Hamza al-Masri, Egyptian, mujahideen
- Nasser bin Ali al-Ansi, Yemeni, mujahideen
- Karim Said Atmani, Moroccan, mujahideen
- Nawaf al-Hazmi, Saudi, mujahideen
- Fateh Kamel, Algerian, mujahideen
- Abu Khayr al-Masri, Egyptian, mujahideen
- Khalid al-Mihdhar, Saudi, mujahideen
- Zuher al-Tbaiti, Saudi, mujahideen
- Nasser al-Bahri, Saudi, mujahideen
- Babar Ahmad, British, mujahideen
- Jackie Arklöv, Swedish, HVO
- Roland Bartetzko, German, HVO
- Thomas Crowley, Irish, HOS
- Igor Strelkov, Russian, VRS
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- Innes 2006, p. 157.
- Lebl 2014, p. 8.
- Shrader 2003, p. 53.
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- Granić, Mate (30 June 1995). "Letter dated 30 June 1995 from the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Croatia addressed to the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the question of the use of mercenaries". UN. Retrieved 17 February 2010.
- Koknar, Ali M. (14 July 2003). "The Kontraktniki : Russian mercenaries at war in the Balkans". Bosnian Institute. Retrieved 17 February 2010.
- Smith, Helena (5 January 2003). "Greece faces shame of role in Serb massacre". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 February 2010.
- ICG & 26 February 2013, p. 14.
- CSIS, Foreign Fighters: Bosnia.
- Shrader 2003, p. 51.
- Berger 2011, p. 55.
- International Crisis Group (26 February 2013). "Bosnia's Dangerous Tango: Islam and Nationalism" (PDF). Retrieved 17 April 2015.
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- Curtis, Mark (2010). Secret Affairs: Britain's Collusion with Radical Islam. Profile Books. ISBN 1-84668-763-2.
- Innes, Michael A. (2006). Bosnian Security After Dayton: New Perspectives. Routledge. pp. 157–. ISBN 978-1-134-14872-1.
- Lebl, Leslie S. (2014). "Islamism and Security in Bosnia-Herzegovina" (PDF). Army War College.
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- Zulczyk, M., The Sabotage Activities of Volunteers from the Former Soviet Union Countries During the Wars on the Territory of Former Yugoslavia.
- Keith Cory-Jones (2011). War Dogs: British Mercenaries in Bosnia Tell Their Own Story. Random House. pp. 137–. ISBN 978-1-4464-9290-1.