Nato finds 'terrorist' camp near Sarajevo

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Dusina, Bosnia - Nato troops swooped on what they called a terrorist training camp in central Bosnia on Thursday, capturing the base and occupants without firing a shot in what a US soldier called a classic textbook operation.

A helicopter brought reporters to a remote Bosnian valley, dumping them in snow next to a ski chalet which looked more like a comfortable weekend retreat than the guerrilla hideout Nato said it had uncovered.

Once inside the building, in government territory west of Sarajevo, Nato's claim seemed more credible. Children's toys packed with plastic explosives and radio-controlled detonators were hard to square with any military mission.

A folder on one table contained the operational plan for kidnapping a Serb liaison officer from a Sarajevo building. It included dozens of photographs of the location, which has been occupied by French soldiers under the UN, and now Nato, in recent years. Elaborate sketches detailed the building's defences and escape routes.

Cardboard models of houses and residential building complexes seemed training aids for attacks against civilian targets.

A glass jar half-full of dried beans had a pressure-activated detonator under its lid. "Add water to the jar, the beans slowly swell, the device goes off," explained one Nato officer.

Bosnian authorities deny Nato's charge and say the base was a legitimate espionage school for government agents. Their claim was supported by the detention of eight Bosnians with documents identifying them as employees of the Bosnian Ministry of the Interior, and by a photograph of President Alija Izetbegovic in the chalet.

But stacks of documents in Persian, pictures of Ayatollah Khamenei, the capture of three Iranian nationals and some of the more exotic devices found in the house provided a "terrorist" link for US Nato forces on the scene.

"The terrorists obviously didn't get any classes in the Geneva Conventions, but they did - this picture illustrates - get shown a new and useful way to blow a child's sneakered foot off," said one US officer.

He held up a notebook with a sketch showing a foot in asneaker stepping on a pressure-activated explosive device.

On the table, taken when the house was captured, were several examples of the device illustrated in the notebook.

Captured weapons and ammunition ranged from Russian AK-47 assault rifles with standard bullets to silenced sniper rifles, exploding dum-dum bullets, and unmarked cartridges.

Roaming the house were men in military uniforms without rank or name tags - presumably members of French, British and US intelligence agencies involved in the raid.

The Americans, anxious about Iran and a threat they believe it poses to US citizens and installations in Bosnia and around the world, were triumphant. "It's not often you get a find like this and we intend to make the best of it," said an American who would not give his name.

t Sarajevo - French Nato troops here took action yesterday against snipers in the Serb-held suburb of Ilizda from where it was believed shots had been fired at civilian buses. Serb police brought out two men found there with weapons and took them away for questioning, French Colonel Bertrand Ract Madoux said. However, the Bosnian Serb news agency SRNA reported the two men were later released.