Bosnia accuses Croatian spy services of arming Islamists

Dragan MekticAuthorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina have accused the government of Croatia of deliberately arming militant Islamists in order to damage Bosnia’s reputation and sabotage its campaign to join the European Union. The claims were aired by a Bosnian government minister on Thursday, a day after allegations of a weapons-smuggling plot by Croatia were made in the Bosnian media. On Wednesday, Zurnal, a Bosnian investigative website, alleged that the Croatian intelligence services had recruited a Bosnian national and used him to smuggle weapons and explosives into the majority Muslim country.

According to Zurnal, the Bosnian man was “intercepted” by Croatian intelligence while driving through Croatia on his way to Bosnia. He was traveling to Bosnia from an unnamed “European Union country”, where he allegedly lives. The Zurnal report alleges that officers of Croatia’s Security and Intelligence Agency (SOA) had evidence that the Bosnian man was a supporter of the Islamic State and threatened to notify the authorities in his country of residence. They then allegedly used this threat in order to pressure the Bosnian man to smuggle weapons and explosives into Bosnia and hide them in a mosque in Zenica, a city of about 100,000 residents in central Bosnia.

On Thursday, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Minister of Security, Dragan Mektic (pictured), accused the SOA of plotting the weapons-smuggling operation in an attempt to damage Bosnia’s reputation. The goal of the operation, said Mektic, was to paint Bosnia as a center of Islamic State activity in Europe and sabotage the country’s efforts to join the European Union —of which Croatia is already a member. Also on Thursday, the office of Bosnia’s state prosecutor announced that an investigation had been launched into whether Croatian intelligence agencies had attempted to recruit other Bosnian citizens with known extremist views.

Since 2014, Croatian and Serbian security agencies have repeatedly warned that hundreds of Bosnian Muslims traveled to Syria and Iraq to join the Islamic State, and that many of them have since returned to the Balkans. But the Bosnian government argues that extremist Islam has no place in the country, whose predominantly Muslim population follows moderate versions of the religion. Late on Thursday, the Croatian government dismissed Mektic’s claims as “groundless” and said that they were aimed at harming relations between Bosnia and Croatia. No information has been released about the identity of the Bosnian arms smuggler, his current whereabouts or the fate of the alleged operation.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 15 March 2019 | Permalink

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Russian-trained Serb separatists are forming paramilitary group in Bosnia

Serbian Honor militiaA group of hardline Bosnian Serbs, some of whom have been trained in military tactics by Russian instructors, are secretly creating a paramilitary group to undermine the territorial integrity of Bosnia, according to reports. Information about the alleged paramilitary group was published on the Friday edition of Žurnal, a nonpartisan investigative newsmagazine. The allegations exposed by Žurnal were later repeated by Dragan Mektić, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Minister for Security, who is himself a Bosnian Serb. Žurnal’s revelations came just days after hardline Serb separatists, dressed in dark-colored combat gear, staged a military-style rally in Banja Luka. The city of 200,000 is the administrative center of the Republika Srpska, the semi-autonomous Serb entity in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The entity was established under the terms of the 1995 Dayton peace agreement, which ended the Bosnian War that began in 1992.

The rally was held despite an earlier decision by the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which ruled that military-style marches by separatist organizations were unconstitutional. According to Žurnal, the rally was organized by Srbska čast (Serbian Honor), a militia made up of hardline Serb separatists. The group strongly supports Milorad Dodik, a Serb nationalist who has served as president of Republika Srpska since 2010. The investigative news site said that several members of Srbska čast’s were trained by Russian paramilitary instructors in the Russian-Serbian Humanitarian Center, a Russian-funded disaster relief center based in southern Serbia, which Western officials claim is really an intelligence base. Žurnal also said that one of Srbska čast’s leading figures, Bojan Stojković, a former commando, was trained in military schools in Russia and has been decorated by the Russian military.

Friday’s report by the investigative news outlet quoted extensively from a leaked report by Bosnia and Herzegovnia’s intelligence agency. The report allegedly states that Srbska čast leaders, including Stojković, met secretly with Dodik and discussed the formation of a new, heavily armed paramilitary unit, which will operate as an extrajudicial force in support of Dodik’s administration in Republika Srpska. One quote from the document said that the paramilitary force would engage in “possible intervention if the opposition [i.e. those opposed to Dodik] seeks to obstruct the functioning of the authorities” in the Republika Srpska. Bosnia and Herzegovina has been seeking to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization since 2006. The country has gone through a series of stages in negotiations with NATO and ratified a membership action plan in 2010. Bosnia’s application is heavily supported by Turkey, NATO’s only predominantly Muslim member state, but is fiercely opposed by Russia and by the Balkan country’s Serb minority.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 15 January 2018 | Permalink