The built up of Islamic extremism in Bosnia

By Ioannis Michaletos

The extremism of Islamist nature in Bosnia – Herzegovina that facilitated the recruitment of a significant number of Balkan muslims into the ranks of ISIS and other terrorist groups in the MENA region, does not come as a suprise, since a steady built up of networking and subversion has been going on for the past generation.

Below some notable, hand-picked but “forgotten” examples follow along with brief description.

Bosnia’s law enforcement and various other agencies officers launched on February 2010 a major raid on the village of Gornja Maoca which is claimed to be a home to followers of the “radical Wahabbi” branch of Islam, targeting people whom authorities “suspect of destabilizing the country”. The operation in northern Bosnia by 600 police officers is the largest since the end of the country’s 1992-95 war. The activities are carried out with an aim to locate and prosecute individuals suspected of undermining the territorial integrity and constitutional order and inciting ethnic, racial or religious hatred and intolerance. Some foreign Islamic fighters or Mujaheddin, who stayed on after fighting alongside Bosnian Muslims against Serbs and Croats in the war, formed their own community in the village. They were joined by some local followers of the “Wahabbi” branch.

On the end of 2009 a Bosnian court indicted a group of radical Muslims on charges of “terrorism” and arms trafficking. It said they purchased and possessed weapons, explosives and various products suitable for making improvised explosive devices. Police also found video recordings of people being trained in the use of arms and combat activities to carry out an attack.

Bugojno attack

Haris Čaušević from Bugojno, commonly known as “Oks,” confessed to having detonated a bomb that damaged the Bugojno police station June 27, 2010. While attempting to escape, he also threw a grenade at police officers. The powerful bomb, hidden in a car parked just in front of the station, exploded at dawn, causing considerable destruction. Officer Tarik Ljubuškić died at the scene, and Officer Edina Hindić was severely injured. Four other police sustained non-life threatening injuries. Local media speculated that the bombing was the work of organized crime, but subsequent investigation points toward the radical Wahhabi movement. Later that day, Federal police arrested six suspects and detained a seventh – Naser Palislamovic – two days later in Sarajevo. Police now believe Palislamovic organized the attack. All the suspects are members of the radical Wahhabi movement – a Saudi-based and financed order following a strict interpretation of Islam – while most of them are already known to security agencies for their militant and intolerant behavior.

Bosnia Shopping Centre Blast.

One man was killed (mall’s security guard) and three people injured when an explosive device went off in a shopping centre in the central Bosnian town of Vitez, October 10, 2008. Explosive device was thrown or it was placed there before and then activated. The culprits not arrested yet, belonged to local extremist group.

Careva (Emperor) mosque incident.

Jusuf Barcic and a group of his followers wanted to enter the venerable Careva mosque in downtown Sarajevo (February, 2007), in order to perform the Wahhabi prayer rites. For the first time in the over 500 year history of the mosque, the Imam had to lock the doors. Only the arrival of the police could prevent clashes between Barcic’s followers and followers of the indigenous Bosnian form of Islam. Several months before Careve mosque incident another occurred. There had been a massive brawl in the town of Kalesija after the Wahhabis occupied the local mosque there and chased off the Imam. It appears, however, that Barcic was not the organizer of the incidents in Sarajevo and Kalesija.

Instead, new information shows that a man always seen close to Barcic, Karray Kamel bin Ali, is the mastermind behind the recent incidents. Kamel bin Ali, alias Abu Hamza, is Tunisian born, but has Bosnian citizenship. He and Barcic shared prison time together, and he was released several months ago. Wartime commander of the mujahideen unit in Bosnia, Abu Hamza became known to the Bosnian public after he murdered Egyptian Hisham Diab, alias Abu Velid, in 1997 in the central Bosnian city of Zenica. After managing to evade arrest for three years, Abu Hamza was finally brought down in Germany in 2000 and deported to Bosnia, where he was sentenced to seven years in prison.

An investigation into the case, however, showed that the real Hisham Diab was still alive and an active member of an organization called “New Jihad” and a former close associate of the radical Egyptian cleric Omar Abdel-Rahman, who is serving a life sentence for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. The identity of the person Abu Hamza killed in Zenica remains unknown . Physical conflicts between traditional Bosnian Muslims and Wahabbi have also become more common. The media have reported fights in mosques across Bosnia, in Banovici, Cazin, Kladanj, Kalesija, Sarajevo and other towns and cities.

RS police arrest suspected Wahhabi associates

Republika Srpska (RS) police have arrested five people suspected of ties to the radical Islam Wahhabi movement. The RS Interior Ministry confirmed the arrests on (August 12th 2010) and said they were made based on illegal weapons possession. The suspects were detained in Kozarska Dubica and Novi Grad.

Foiled terror attack by Mirsad Bektasevic group

Swede Mirsad Bektasevic (born in Serbia, alias Maxiums, Bosnian Muslim with Swedish and Serbian citizenship -, Denmark based Turk Abdulkabir Cesur and Bosnian Bajro Ikanovic were arrested in Sarajevo for planning a terror attack on Western targets in Sarajevo or other European countries.

Bektasevic and Cesur came to Bosnia in autumn 2005 to plan the attack and they, together with Ikanovic (who was Bektasevic’s supplier of explosives to be used in terror attack) were arrested in October and December 2005 in Sarajevo suburbs of Butmir and Hadzici. Police confiscated explosives, weapons, videos, an explosive belt and other military equipment. They also arrested Senad Hasanovic and Asim Bajric for possession of weapons and explosives. The videotape found in Baktasevic’s apartment showed masked men asking for God’s forgiveness for the sacrifice they are about to make. The investigation proved that Bektasevic and Abdulkabir were the ones on the video wearing face masks.

All involved in their confessions they said that they wanted to “warn” Bosnian and Western European authorities about Muslims’ suffering in Iraq and Afghanistan and to warn Bosnian government to withdraw its soldiers from Iraq. The alleged network was most likely plotting an attack on the European Forces (EUFOR) base in Sarajevo, located just 100 m from the house where two main suspects were arrested. Bektasevic has been in phone contact with a man later arrested in Denmark on suspicion of terrorist activities. Bektasevic used a codename Maximus. Four young Muslims in Denmark were arrested shortly after the Sarajevo arrests in a case that was said to be connected. They have been released due to the lack of evidence.

The Danish group was under surveillance for 2 years after they met with radical Islamist cleric in London. The cleric was Omar Bakri Muhammed the leader of now-disbanded radical Islamist group al-Mujahiroon. The four had ties to the men arrested in Sarajevo, and were charged with helping provide weapons and explosives to Bektasevic and Cesur for the planned attack. Another three people in England were arrested in connection with the case and released on bail. It was Bosnian first-ever Islamic terror case.

The murder of a Croatian family

In December 2002, Muamer Topalovic murdered a family of Croatian returnees (a father and his two daughters; son was seriously injured during the attack) in Kostajnica near Konjic in BiH. They were gunned down in their home on the Christmas’ eve.
Topalovic confessed that he committed the murder for religious reasons – that he was doing the will of Allah. The victims were members of a Catholic family who returned a few years ago to their home after living outside the country as war-refugees. In his confession Topalovic said that he belonged to AIO and Jamiet el-Furkan. Jamiet al-Furkan (which was closed down on December 31, 2002) is an Islamic charity organization that was directly sponsored by Saudi Arabia. Both organizations denied that Topalovic was their member, but they conceded that he might have attended few of their lectures or courses. Other incidents of verbal and physical attacks of Catholic Croats from Muslims were reported. Topalovic was allegedly under ideology of Wahabbi groups, which extends intolerance also to non-Muslims.

Further subversive incidents:
July 2005: A group of Bosnian Muslims were arrested in Italy because on April that year they tried to place explosives during the funeral of late Pontiff John-Paul II.

August 2005: The fugitive Moroccan terrorist Abdelmajid Bouchar was arrested in Serbia after he escaped from Spain where he took part in the bombing attacks in Madrid in March 2004. He was in contact with radical Muslims in the Balkans over the previous years.

October 2005: The Bosnian security forces arrested Bosnian Muslims that were in procession of plastic explosives and were preparing a terrorist attack in Western Embassies in Sarajevo. The group was revealed that was in contact with the Al Qaeda leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi
December 2006: In Trevizo-Italy Bosnian Muslims and Albanians were arrested, because they were smuggling weapons from Turkey and were also related with terrorist organizations.

December 2007: Bosnian Muslims and a Turk were arrested in Germany, because they were planning terrorist attacks against the country’s transportation system

March 2008: Five Wahhabis in Bosnia were arrested carrying heavy armaments and were aiming at attacking Christian Churches during the coming Easter Period.

June 2008: Ten Islamic extremists were arrested in Bosnia transferring illegally obtained weapons to Croatia in order to arm terrorist cells in Central Europe. All of them were revealed that maintained links with Mujahedeen fighters from the 1990’s wars in Ex-Yugoslavia

July 2008: Abu Hamza in Bosnia, one of the main Mujahedeen figures of the ’90’s, stated in the media that he received assistance from the Turkish intelligence (MIT) during the war against the Serbs and Croats in Bosnia, in order to arm his Islamic fighting units.

According to a past report by Juan Carlos Antúnez, the Bosnian Wahhabi movement is currently comprised of two main streams:

– A Salafi / Wahhabi stream loyal to the B-H Islamic Community;

– A Salafi / Wahhabi stream outside the control of the B-H Islamic Community. This stream can also be divided into two main groups: Missionary and Jihadi.

It seems that for the long-term purposes of further subversion of radical elements of the Bosnian Wahhabi networks into B-H, the infiltration of the religious structure of the mainstream Muslim community is needed.

A security report by the ISN, comments on the “Bosnian Muslim cleric Muhamed Porca, who has served as the head of the Vienna-based Al-Tawhid Mosque since 1993. Bosnian intelligence believes he is the main source of financial and ideological support for the Bosnian Wahhabi movement