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news 18 Nov 16

ISIS Brings Out Bosnian Version of Terror Magazine

A Bosnian version of the Islamic State’s new online magazine is aimed at justifying violent deeds to poor and unemployed people it hopes to attract, according to an expert spoken to by BIRN.

Eleanor Rose BIRN Sarajevo
Unidentified milita at guard in a Syrian town. Photo: ISIS propaganda material

A Bosnian version of the Islamic State's new magazine is aimed at attracting poor and unemployed Bosnian Muslims to the cause of the jihadists, Goran Kovacevic, professor at the Faculty of Criminology and Security Studies at the University of Sarajevo, told BIRN.

Kovacevic said it may be less effective than its creators hope, however. 

The magazine was launched in September in several languages, including Arabic, English, Turkish, German and French, by ISIS’s media arm Al-Hayat. The name means “Rome” and is thought to allude to the fall of the Roman Empire, the ancestor of Western civilisation.

A Bosnian-language version of all three monthly editions issued so far has been published by the ISIS-linked Bosnian language website.

Its overall aim is to spread the usual propaganda used by Islamic terrorists, Kovacevic said, noting that it joins a few known existing IS-friendly media sources in Bosnia. 

 “They’re trying to establish a connection between the holy book and their sword – the things they’re doing in the real world,” he said.

He said Bosnia was of particular interest to ISIS as a mainly Muslim country in Europe. 

About half the population of Bosnia is Muslim. Kosovo and Albania have much bigger Muslim majorities, however.

“Bosnia is important because there are a lot of people here with military training. You don’t need to send them to camps to educate them,” he added.

Many people who fought in the Bosnian war of 1992 to 1995 were now unemployed, he noted, adding that “money is a great motivator”. 

Bosnia's economy is weak, with a registered unemployment rate of 27 per cent and a youth unemployment rate of around 60 per cent, according to the World Bank.

However, said Kovacevic, although the magazine's content may be used by a number of people to spread propaganda in Bosnia, it may not appeal to that many.

“Much more influential [for ISIS] are the video and audio messages,” he said. 

Since its launch, the magazine has featured gruesome images of people waiting in ditches to be shot, as well as depictions of beheadings. 

It calls on supporters to launch attacks on non-Muslims, from businessmen to flower-sellers in the street.

The most recent edition, published last Friday, details how to carry out a terror attack. 

The Bosnian-language edition is slightly shorter than the English-language version, missing out an article commemorating a Briton who died in battle.

Bosnia is one of the main regional exporters of Islamic jihadists to the Middle East, according to official data.

At least 200 Bosnian citizens have travelled to Syria and Iraq to fight with IS, and at least 50 have returned home, according to research published in March by BIRN. 

Authorities have in the past year started jailing those they think are helping ISIS in Bosnia. 

In October 2015, in the first ruling of its kind, the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina jailed four citizens for taking in part in, or mobilizing and transporting groups to take part in, the fighting in Syria and Iraq. 

Some maintain that Bosnia is no more special as a place of interest for ISIS than other countries in the region. 

Terrorism expert Vlado Azinovic, assistant professor at Sarajevo University’s School of Political Scientists, is quoted in the local media as saying that ISIS sees Bosnia as part of its support base for recruitment and logistical support, along with “a good part of our region”.

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Background

Western Balkans on Alert Over ISIS Threat

Countries in the region have raised security levels and introduced new precautions to counter the threat of terrorist attacks by Islamic State.

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