In this highly informative artcle published in World Affairs the author describes how Jihadis and radical Wahabbis founded and constantly expanded their network of operations in Bosnia.
While there is much talk about ‘Jihad tourists’ coming back to central and western Europe there is little or no talk about the threat of islam in the Balkans.
This is the case despite the fact that “Bosnia has provided more volunteers per capita for the Syrian jihad than any other country in Europe”.
I believe that the Balkans will become, not in the short term but in the middle term, a battlefield in islam’s war against the West.
Funded by hundreds of millions of dollars from the Saudis and other good muslims Bosnia is becoming more and more islamic.
The jihadis are not yet strong enough to build an islamic state as they did in Syria and Iraq.
If they can raise a critical mass of radicals there will be major trouble in the Balkans.
That, mixed with the unresolved national issues and unsettled scores in the Balkans, might be just the spark that makes the powder keg that the balkans is explode.
Thank you, Mr. Clinton.
You can read the whole article here.
Here are some highlights.
While the Muslims of southeastern Europe remain the world’s most moderate Islamic populations, an estimated five to ten percent has become indoctrinated in the more extreme forms of Islam typical of places such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt. This is not an accident—the rise and growth of militant Islamism in southeastern Europe is the result of long-term efforts by extremists to radicalize local populations. Over the past several decades, the militant Islamist movement in southeastern Europe has created a sophisticated infrastructure consisting of local safe havens in isolated villages and in mosques controlled by radical clergy, along with a wide array of electronic and print media propagating news from various jihad fronts, relaying orders from al-Qaeda leaders, and attempting to convert impressionable young people to join their cause. All of this is funded by generous Middle Eastern donors and supported by small groups of local extremists who have infiltrated influential political, religious, and social institutions.
The origins of the militant Islamist movement in southeastern Europe can most directly be tied to the life and work of Bosnia’s late Islamist president, Alija Izetbegovic. In the late 1930s, Izetbegovic and a conspiratorial group of like-minded Islamist extremists formed an organization called the Mladi Muslimani (“Young Muslims”), a Balkan version of the Muslim Brotherhood whose goal, as Izetbegovic himself frequently noted, was the creation of a “great Muslim state,” or as one author has described it, an “Islamistan,” throughout the Balkans, northern Africa, and the Middle East. Toward this goal, the Mladi Muslimani swore an oath promising perseverance on their “path of jihad” and their “uncompromising struggle against everything non-Islamic.” Tellingly, the name of their underground journal was Mudzahid (“Holy Warrior”).
Yugoslavia’s disintegration in the 1990s opened the doors for a second generation of militant Islamists to establish itself in the region. Composed mostly of foreign transplants from Afghanistan and other jihadi fronts, it was even more extreme and dangerous than Izetbegovic’s original group. Mostly concentrated in a unit Izetbegovic formed in August 1992 named the Katibat al-Mujahideen, veterans of the Bosnian jihad in the 1990s included people such as Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, mastermind of the 9/11 attacks; Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, involved in the attack on the USS Cole; Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, involved in the August 1998 US embassy bombings in East Africa; Abu Hamza al-Masri, the spiritual father of the July 2005 London Underground bombings; and Zaki ur-Rehman Lakhvi, one of the participants in the November 2008 Mumbai bombings. Ali Hamad, a Bahraini-born al-Qaeda operative, has claimed that al-Qaeda figures would visit Bosnia with “state protection,” and both the US and Saudi Arabia accused the Izetbegovic regime of giving Bosnian passports to known terrorists.
Unfortunately, these people did not simply pack up and leave when the Dayton Peace Accords brought an end to the Bosnian War in December 1995. Instead, together with local extremist allies, an entire infrastructure supporting militant Islamist causes (and not infrequently outright terrorism itself) was created during the latter part of the decade, the consequences of which are still plaguing the region today.
Thus, in remote, isolated villages around the Balkans, militant Islamists have developed a network of extra-territorial, sharia-run enclaves that serve as recruiting stations for local converts and safe havens for jihadis from around the world. According to writer Janez Kovac, in the central Bosnian village of Bocinja Donja, for instance, inhabited by some six hundred people, extremists live “separate lives untroubled by local police, tax-collectors, or any other authorities. Outsiders never set foot in the small community.” Another Bosnian village, Gornja Maoca, is the headquarters of Bosnia’s main Wahhabi leader, Nusret Imamovic. Gornja Maoca has frequently been used as a way station for extremists joining jihads in Chechnya, Afghanistan, and Yemen. In October 2011, Mevlid Jasarevic, a Wahhabi from the Sandzak region, left the village with two other residents on the day he attacked the US Embassy in Sarajevo.
Throughout the western and southern Balkans, extremist-led mosques also serve as bases for militant Islamists. The Saudi-funded King Fahd Mosque and Cultural Center in Sarajevo, which the researcher Juan Carlo Antunez has called “the epicenter of the spreading of radical ideas” in Bosnia, for a number of years functioned autonomously under the direct supervision of the Saudi Embassy in Bosnia. The White Mosque in Sarajevo is the headquarters of Sulejman Bugari, a Kosovo Albanian–born imam whom the global intelligence firm Stratfor has described as a go-between for Albanian and Bosnian extremists. In Kosovo, the journalist Mohammad al-Arnaout has reported that the Makowitz mosque on the outskirts of Pristina and the Mitrovica mosque are recruiting militants to fight alongside Islamist groups in Syria. In Macedonia, Wahhabi extremists have been engaged in a struggle with the country’s official Islamic community to take control of Skopje’s Yahya Pasha, Sultan Murat, Hudaverdi, and Kjosekadi mosques.
Militant Islamists support their efforts in southeastern Europe through a network of “NGOs,” “charities,” and “humanitarian aid” organizations, often funded by known al-Qaeda financial donors. The CIA has estimated that one-third of the Bosnian NGOs operating worldwide have terrorist connections or employ people with terrorist links. In the aftermath of 9/11, a raid on such a “charity” in Sarajevo, the Saudi High Commission for Aid to Bosnia, according to the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, netted “maps of Washington, material for making false State Department identity cards, and anti-American manuals designed for children.”
Unfortunately, the international response to militant Islam’s rise in southeastern Europe has ranged from neglect to outright denial. For instance, after 9/11, the then high representative in Bosnia, Wolfgang Petritsch, somewhat incredibly claimed in a New York Times op-ed that “no evidence has been produced that [Bosnia] has served as a base for al-Qaeda,” while the current high representative in Bosnia, Valentin Inzko, for his part, has similarly argued that the Wahhabis in Bosnia “pose no danger to Europe.” Yet as Evan Kohlmann, a leading specialist on al-Qaeda’s campaign in Bosnia, has put it, individuals who deny that al-Qaeda is operating in the Balkans “are either lying or have no idea what they are talking about.”