NATO forces have seized what they describe as a terrorist training camp, uncovering an arsenal that included sniper rifles, submachine guns and children's toys wired to explode.
Eleven men at the site, including three with Iranian identification papers, were detained Thursday. The site, a former ski chalet on government land 20 miles west of Sarajevo, was taken over the same day without a shot being fired, NATO said Friday.Six of the other detainees were Bosnians, and the nationality of the two others has not been determined.
It was the first time the NATO-led force in Bosnia had captured foreign fighters since taking over peacekeeping duties in December. U.S. troops had worried about the danger of attacks by anti-West Islamic fighters who had fought alongside the Muslim-led Bosnian government, but it was not clear whether any of the men detained Thursday fell into that category.
According to the Bosnian peace accord, foreign troops who are not part of the NATO-led force are banned from Bosnia. Bosnian officials repeatedly had assured NATO that all foreign forces had left the country.
NATO troops found 60 weapons at the former ski chalet, five miles south of the government-held village of Fojnica. In addition to the guns, troops found rocket-propelled grenades, hand grenades, detonators, blasting caps and large stores of explosives, NATO officials said.
They also discovered models of buildings that may have been the intended targets of terrorist activity, but officials gave no specifics. Investigations were in progress, spokesman Lt. Col. Mark Rayner said, but he refused to give further details.
Rayner said the initial assessment was that the three men carrying Iranian papers were training Bosnians to carry out acts of terror.
"It would appear at first sight that it was some form of terrorist training school," he told reporters. He was unable to say whether the men were suspected of planning attacks in Bosnia or elsewhere.
A State Department official in Washington, speaking on condition of anonymity, had said Thursday that the men were detained after NATO learned of a plan to attack its installations in Bosnia.
Adm. Leighton Smith, overall commander of the NATO force in Bosnia, inspected the camp Friday morning and called it "an abomination."
It was unclear how much the Bosnian government knew about the activities at the camp, located on government land. If the government is found to have violated the peace accord by harboring mujahedeen, that could give foreign mediators leverage on the government at a meeting in Rome this weekend.
The United States and its allies called the meeting of the presidents of Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia to try to preserve the increasingly shaky Bosnian peace.
A major threat to the peace accord came last week after Bosnian Serbs severed relations with the NATO-led peace force to protest the government's arrest of two Serb military officers on suspicion of war crimes. The pair was extradited this week to the international war crimes tribunal in the Hague, Netherlands, for further investigation.
The discovery Thursday of the armed camp near government-held Fojnica was expected to draw a strong reaction from Bosnian Serbs, who have accused the government of violating the peace accord by arresting the two Serb officers.
Smith said he telephoned President Alija Izetbegovic after visiting the camp, and the Bosnian leader told him the chalet was a former training center for the Bosnian interior ministry, which runs the national police force.