Muslim political and religious leaders in Bosnia-Herzegovina, which is partitioned between a “Republic of Serbs” and a “Muslim-Croat Federation,” have taken firm measures to stop agitation and recruitment for ISIS.
On February 7, according to the Al-Arabiya television network, Bosnian police raided the country’s notorious center of Wahhabi fundamentalism, the northern village of Gornja Maoca. The law-enforcement action came after Bosnian Federation Television showed images of ISIS flags displayed in the settlement. (The ISIS ideology is an especially virulent form of Wahhabism.)
Al-Arabiya portrayed Wahhabism as an ongoing problem in Gornja Maoca. A small group of Bosnian and foreign fanatics, who had been present but without significant impact in the 1992-95 Bosnian War, were encouraged to move to the isolated location after the fighting ended, apparently to keep them away from large groups and make them easier to monitor. In 2010, Gornja Maoca was swept by Bosnian police. But in 2011, a Muslim with Serbian citizenship who had passed through the extremist colony, Mevlid Jasarevic, fired at the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo with an automatic weapon.
In 2014, recruitment for or service in combat abroad -- meaning in Syria and Iraq -- was criminalized by the Bosnian government, with provision for 10-year prison sentences. In Gornja Maoca, 26 people were detained on suspicion of assisting ISIS. The trial of one among them, Husein Bosnic, began in Sarajevo on February 11, 2015.
As described by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Bosnic was charged by state prosecutor Dubravko Campara with having incited Muslims, in public events and on video, to support ISIS. Campara declared that six people Bosnic sent to Syria had been killed but that others, who are believed to still be there, “represent a threat for security in Bosnia once they return.” RFE/RL and other sources estimate that some 180-200 Bosnians have gone to ISIS-occupied territory, with 20-40 killed and 50 returned to the Balkans. Campara said Bosnic benefited from a “significant amount of money” donated in Arab countries.
Meanwhile, on February 17-18, in a fresh police operation at Gornja Maoca, six people were detained for involvement with ISIS. Their names deserve to be recorded since they may become newsworthy again. They include Nevad Husidic and Merin Keserovic, youths from the remote northwestern district of Velika Kladusa. The two were nabbed at Sarajevo’s airport as they attempted to fly to Istanbul en route to the Syrian border. Edin Tabakovic was arrested in his apartment in Sarajevo.
Additionally, Husein Erdic, Ramiz Ibrahimovic, and Alaudin Ibrahimovic were seized in the small city of Maglaj and the remote frontier town of Buzim. The latter is known for Wahhabi agitation but is not under the strict Wahhabi domination seen in Gornja Maoca. Ramiz Ibrahimovic is said to have fought in Syria. His son Alaudin Ibrahimovic, now 23, is reported to have lost his hands and an eye in a bomb explosion when he was eight. In the environs of Zenica, a large city, Midhat Trako was taken in on suspicion of financing terrorism.
Selvedin Beganovic, a moderate cleric and opponent of Bosnic from Trnovi, a hamlet in the Velika Kladusa “hot zone,” has suffered four physical attacks by Wahhabis in the past month and a half. Most recently, on Sunday, February 22, he was stabbed three times, but survived. Bosnian police held four people believed to be involved in the latest incident. Last year, Beganovic issued an open letter against recruitment for ISIS. Attacks on anti-radical clerics are a new and shocking phenomenon in Bosnia-Herzegovina, though they have occurred for some years in nearby Kosovo.