Police in the fractured Balkan state of Bosnia have launched what is being called the largest raid against followers of the radicial Wahhabi branch of Islam since the end of the country's 1992-1995 war. Some 600 police from Bosnia's Serb Republic and the Muslim-Croat federation took part in the Feb. 2 operation, codenamed "Light." Arrests were made and guns and explosives seized in the raid in Gornja Maoca, in the north. What are Islamic terrorists doing in Europe? You can thank Washington's and Brussel's Balkans policy for that.
Bosnia was a magnet for sundry Jihadi-wannabes in the mid-1990s.
After the guns went silent, many of these Mujahedeen left the Balkans for Afghanistan, Pakistan, or other Jihadist sites. But some stayed behind. No one knows how many, but all agree Wahhabi influence is on the rise.
Here is an exceptional, if rare, Western TV report on Bosnia's mujahedeen fighters. All credit to Sky News.
When a Wahhabi leader Jusuf Barcic was buried in Tuzla in March, 2007 over 3,000 followers, men with long beards chanting "Allahu Akbar", or "God is Great" turned out, beating photographers who tried to take pictures.
"We did not expect there to be so many people," an officer told the newspaper Oslobodjenje.
Conventional wisdom says the Wahhabis prey on Bosnia's poor youth to recruit new members.
But Boris Kanzleiter, writing in World Politics Review, say it's more nuanced than that.
Although the majority of Bosnian Muslims are secular in orientation, there have always been fundamentalist currents with political influence among the Bosnian intelligentsia. Alija Izetbegovic, the first Bosnian President following the 1992 declaration of Bosnian independence, is a case in point. Izetbegovic openly expressed sympathy for Islamist doctrine, even if he did not adopt it as the basis for his policies. He brought thousands of Arab Mujahideen to Bosnia to reinforce his troops, many of them veterans of the war in Afghanistan. "We enjoyed great privileges among both the political and the military leadership in Sarajevo," Ali Hamad, a former Mujahideen commander from Bahrain, recently told the German weekly Der Spiegel.
The fact that Bosnia has become such a fertile source of new recruits for the Wahhabi sectarians is a legacy of this alliance. Having obtained Bosnian passports, several hundred Mujahideen remained in Bosnia after the war. With the generous financial support of Saudi Arabia, they built up a network of organizations that they are using to attract the next generation of Islamists.
Kanzleiter points out while Washington looked the other way when Mujahedeen marched into Bosnia in the 1990s, U.S. mandarins had a strategic rethink after 9/11, looking to lock up radical Islamists whereever they maybe.
In 2002, the Bosnian government turned over six Algerian-born Wahhabis with Bosnian passports to U.S. authorities. The six were sent to the Guantánamo prison camp. Since then, there have been regular arrests.
In this fresh raid, Bosnian forces sealed off Gornja Maoca for the action. Police arrested seven who were later charged with posing a security threat in Bosnia by promoting racial and religious hatred and illegally possessing weapons. Their alleged crimes include damaging graveyards and discriminating against people from other ethnic and religious groups.
Here's a local TV report on the raid.
After the raid, reporters who reached the village to interview the locals were instead attacked by some members of this remote mountainous village.
Western media gave the raid short shrift. Overall, there has been little interest in the West over the percolating Muslim problem in the Balkans. That's not surprising. Why focus on a problem that Western policy has largely caused?