THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) _ Slobodan Milosevic claimed that al-Qaida militants had assisted Balkan rebels in their fight for independence from Serbia and asked a Kosovo Albanian witness testifying in his war crimes trial Friday if he had heard of Osama bin Laden.
The former Yugoslav president made the allegations while cross-examining Sabit Kadriu, a 41-year-old human rights worker who told the court Thursday how Serb forces murdered more than 100 civilians as they tried to flee Kosovo in 1999.
Milosevic quoted from an alleged FBI report, dated Dec. 18, 2001, which he said proved that al-Qaida had established a terrorist network in Kosovo to help the Muslim population. He identified the report as a congressional statement from the intelligence service.
The authenticity of the document could not be independently confirmed and he gave no details on how he obtained it.
Milosevic first asked Kadriu if he knew anything about ``mujahadeen atrocities'' in Kosovo or if he had heard of bin Laden, the Saudi man held responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks in New York and Washington.
``That is a figment of your imagination,'' Kadriu said, rejecting Milosevic's claims.
The former Yugoslav leader, on trial for war crimes in Kosovo, Bosnia and Croatia during the Balkan conflicts in the 1990s, then read out from the document in English.
``Al-Qaida supports Muslim fighters in Bosnia, Chechnya and Kosovo'' among other regions, he read, referring to the death of civilians in the region. He said ``the al-Qaida branch of the KLA'' was specialized in killing in Kosovo.
``I don't know anything about that, there are no mujahedeen in Kosovo,'' the witness responded. ``The first I heard of al-Qaida was after the crime in the United States.''
Milosevic persisted, holding up another sheet of paper. It was not clear if this was a separate document.
``Well, here I have a report from the Congressional Research Service Front Line, saying that al-Qaida cells have been identified in Kosovo, Bosnia, Albania ... is that true, yes or no?'' he said.
``I don't know anything about that,'' Kadriu said.
The witness recounted events during NATO's 1999 bombing campaign against Yugoslavia, describing how Serb forces fired machine guns and grenades at a column of thousands of ethnic Albanians fleeing under a white banner near the end of the bloody Kosovo war.
Kadriu, a survivor of the shelling, was later imprisoned and tortured by Serb police, he said, before being expelled to Albania in May 1999. He was the 14th witness to testify in Milosevic's trial which started Feb. 12.
But Milosevic dismissed Kadriu's testimony as ``sheer unadulterated lies.''
``Neither the (Serb) army nor the police committed any war crimes,'' Milosevic said.
Milosevic, the highest ranking official to go on trial since Nazi and Japanese leaders in the aftermath of World War II. He could face a life sentence if convicted on any of 66 counts, including genocide.
Countering Milosevic's assertions that Serbs had not committed crimes, Kadriu asked sarcastically: ``So who were they committed by, extraterrestrials?''
Kadriu then told Milosevic he was making a ``mockery of the victims ... he should be ashamed of himself.''
The defendant and the accused engrossed in heated exchanges, during which Kadriu looked Milosevic in the eyes, unlike other witnesses who were apparently intimidated by Milosevic's presence.
``You did the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo, this is what you did,'' Kadriu asserted and when Milosevic instructed him to limit his answers. ``Don't shut me up here, you have shut my rights for the past ten years,'' he said angrily.