Country Reports on Terrorism 2007 - Bosnia and Herzegovina

Despite increased ethnic polarization and disputes among Bosnian political leaders that hindered the functioning of state government for most of the year, Bosnia and Herzegovina's law enforcement organizations cooperated with the United States on international counterterrorism issues. Bosnia remained a weak, decentralized state and ethnically-based political confrontations continued to undermine national government. As a result of weak interagency communication, competing security structures, and political interference in law enforcement, Bosnia is vulnerable to exploitation as a potential staging ground for terrorist operations in Europe. The dysfunctional Bosnian state government and efforts by Republika Srpska officials to undermine state-level institutions contributed to a slowdown, and in some cases, setbacks in efforts to improve operational capabilities to combat terrorism and terrorism finance.

The State Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA) is the Bosnia agency with primary responsibility for counterterrorism operations. The position of SIPA Director was unfilled for most of the year and the agency's readiness and capabilities suffered as a result. In addition, the head of the Ministry of Security, parent organization to SIPA, politicized the Ministry's terrorism threat analysis and counterterrorism operations. Although Bosnian capabilities and potential for independent action were degraded over the year, Bosnian authorities were generally effective and responsive to U.S. counterterrorism cooperation requests.

The Citizenship Review Commission (CRC), formed to review the status of foreign mujahedin fighters and others who obtained Bosnian citizenship during and after the 1992-95 war, completed its review of approximately 1200 cases. The CRC withdrew citizenship from 612 individuals it deemed to have obtained Bosnian citizenship unlawfully. Among those denaturalized were three individuals listed under UNSCR 1267 Committee for links with the Taliban, Usama bin Ladin (UBL), and/or al-Qa'ida (AQ). UNSCR 1267-listed Abu Hamza al-Masri (Imad Al-Hussein) was stripped of his citizenship by the CRC in January. The Bosnian government subsequently denied an appeal by Abu Hamza and an application for permanent residence. An asylum application also was denied by the Ministry of Security, and an ongoing appeal of the asylum rejection constitutes the final recourse for Abu Hamza.

On January 10, the Bosnian State Court handed down a fifteen and a half year prison sentence for Mirsad Bektasevic, a lead defendant in the country's first state-level terrorism trial. Two co-defendants received thirteen and a half, and eight year sentences, respectively. The three defendants were arrested in October 2005, on terrorism charges, and two others were charged with illegal possession of explosives. Lead defendants Mirsad Bektasevic (a Swedish citizen) and Abdulkadir Cesur were linked to terrorist networks elsewhere in Europe. In June 2007, a State Court appellate panel upheld the convictions but substantially reduced the sentences.

The Bosnian organization Aktivna Islamska Omladina (Active Islamic Youth, or AIO) spread extremist and anti-American rhetoric through its weekly print and online publication SAFF Magazine. AIO was founded in Zenica in 1995 by individuals with ties to the so-called "El Mujahid Brigade," a wartime unit comprised mainly of foreign extremists. AIO conducts youth outreach in Bosnia and maintains a presence in Western Europe.

Bosnia and Herzegovina continued its deployments in support of MNF-I. In September, the sixth rotation of the Armed Forces' 36-member Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit deployed to Iraq. The Armed Forces also undertook specialized training that would allow for further deployments to either Iraq or to support Operation Enduring Freedom.


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