More Thrills than Skills – A Half-life in Journalism, Part 74

Over the next few weeks, is to publish, each weekday, extracts from the memoirs of Scottish war correspondent, Paul Harris. ‘More Thrills than Skills: A Half-life in Journalism’, is being scheduled for publication next year.

In 1992-3, we knew very little about Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. Operatives had, in fact, started to fan out into Europe during 1992 and Albania, Bosnia and Chechnya were the first countries to merit their attention.

All were undergoing seismic political change: Chechnya was seeking to break away from an overbearing Moscow, Bosnia from the domination of Belgrade and Albania was, quite simply, in a mess with an exploitable political vacuum evident. All three had large Muslim populations and seemed ripe for the attentions of Al Qaeda. The struggles of their peoples could easily be interpreted as the struggles of Muslim peoples against the infidel.

In 1993-4, Islamic fighters from Algeria, Iran, North Africa and Lebanon arrived in Bosnia at a time when the country seemed likely to fall to the Serbs and Croats. After all, the West seemed to have forgotten that 19th century Bosnian immigrants to Algeria had built possibly the finest mosque in Algiers overlooking the Mediterranean . . .