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news 01 Feb 17

Bosnia Runs Checks on Arrested Terror Suspects

Bosnian police agencies are running checks on the background of several men who were arrested last week in Austria in a large-scale anti-terrorism operation.

Denis Dzidic
A State Investigation and Protection Agency police officer. Photo: SIPA.

Bosnian police have been asked to check the backgrounds of five people detained in Austria and their possible links to radical Islamist groups, BIRN was told by a Bosnian police source.

“We have received a request to check the backgrounds of these people - whether their Bosnian passports are valid and if there is anything illegal in their citizenships,” said the source.

Austrian police raided unofficial mosques and apartments in Vienna and Graz on Thursday and arrested several suspects from the Balkans, including at least five Bosnian men.

According to reports, the raids were aimed at cracking a suspected network of jihadists with links to the former Yugoslavia.

A second source in the Bosnian security ministry, which is handling the Austrian request, said that the names of the men have not been made public because there is a possibility that one or more of the suspects might sign a plea bargain and be put under official protection.

Austrian newspaper Der Standard reported on Thursday that around 800 police officers took part in the raids in Graz and Vienna, where a total of 11 men and three women were arrested.

Three of the men, according to the newspaper, are Salafist preachers and all are suspected of  involvement in terrorist organisations and connections to Islamic State.

The Austrian tabloid Kronen Zeitung reported that the crackdown was linked to a group connected to a Muslim preacher from Bosnia, Ebu Tejma, who was sentenced to 20 years in jail last year by a court in Graz.

Tejma was convicted of recruiting young people to fight for the Islamic State and of spreading its propaganda.

"As part of an ongoing investigation into suspected membership of a terrorist organisation [ISIS] a coordinated operation planned for some time took place,” said a prosecution official in Graz who was quoted by the AFP news agency.

While Austria has not been the subject of a major terrorist attack in recent years, authorities say about 300 people have left or tried to leave the country to fight for ISIS. Around 250 people have left Bosnia between 2012 and 2016 to join ISIS.

In the past two years, more than 20 returnees from Syria and Iraq have been prosecuted in Bosnia for joining terrorist organisations and have been sentenced to around 75 years in prison.

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