Bosnian police launch operation to root out radical Islamists

The suspects ‘belong to radical movements, have fought in or returned from Syria, or were recruiters of jihadists’

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Bosnian police on Wednesday launched an operation to root out radical Islamists, arresting several people, a week after a suspected “terrorist attack” in which a police officer was killed.

“The search is underway in 32 places in Republika Srpska (the Serb-run entity of Bosnia,” interior ministry spokesman Milan Salamandija said.

A number of people were detained and questioned by the police, RTRS public broadcaster reported, but police declined to reveal the number saying the operation was still ongoing.

Those detained were suspected of having “made supplies of weapons and explosives aimed at committing terrorist acts against the institutions of the Republika Srpska and their representatives,” a prosecutor said in a statement.

The suspects “belong to radical movements, have fought in or returned from Syria, or were recruiters of jihadists,” Salamandija said.

“We found a certain amount of arms and ammunition, bulletproof vests, uniforms and propaganda material for recruitment,” he said.

The operation was launched following last week’s attack by a local Islamist on a police station in the eastern town of Zvornik.

Shouting “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest), the attacker opened fire on the station killing one and wounding two other police officers, before being killed in a shootout with police.

Bosnia’s 1992-1995 inter-ethnic war attracted hundreds of Islamists from across the Arab world to support Muslim forces. The foreign fighters have now left, but their strict interpretation of Islam has been adopted by some Bosnian Muslims, who 20 years later fight alongside jihadists in Syria and Iraq.

Some 150 Bosnians are believed to have joined jihadist groups fighting in Iraq and Syria, with 50 others believed to have already returned to Bosnia from Middle East battlefields, according to the intelligence services.

After the war, the country of 3.8 million people with a 40-percent strong Muslim population, was divided into two semi-independent entities -- Republika Srpska and Muslim-Croat Federation.

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