Bosnia in spat with Croatia over ‘arms in mosques’

A mosque in Pocitelj, 19 Jul 11Picture copyright
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A mosque in Pocitelj, Herzegovina: Faith is interwoven with Bosnian politics

It feels like a political satire storyline rejected for being just a bit too far-fetched.

On this week’s episode: The president makes wild and unverifiable claims portraying the neighbouring nation as a safety menace and secure haven for hundreds of Islamist terrorists. A lot outrage ensues, till her nation’s intelligence company rides to the rescue – and makes an attempt to make the information resemble the rhetoric.

One suspects the writers of the American satire Veep would have laughed the concept out of the room. However there are few chuckles in Bosnia, the place this week the presidency has ordered a diplomatic be aware of protest to be despatched throughout the border to Croatia.

The contents of this missive have but to be confirmed. However it’s prone to include some scorching phrases concerning the alleged conduct of Croatia’s Safety Intelligence Company (SOA).

Arming Islamists?

Even by the requirements of the Western Balkans, the claims are extraordinary.

Final month, the impartial information web site Zurnal, based mostly in Sarajevo, printed interviews with Bosnian Muslims who mentioned the SOA had tried to coerce them into smuggling weapons into locations linked with the Salafi Islamist motion in Bosnia.

The “discovery” of those arms caches would then justify feedback made by Croatia’s President, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic. Two years in the past, she mentioned there have been 10,000 individuals with “very radical rhetoric and intentions” in Bosnia – remarks which brought about outrage on the time.

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Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic was elected Croatian president in January 2015

Not surprisingly, Zurnal’s allegations brought about a furore.

Croatia’s Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic known as the story “a matter of inventive manipulation” throughout a go to to the Bosnian city of Neum.

The SOA described the claims as “false and malicious”, although it confirmed that its officers had been involved with the Bosnian residents quoted within the story.

In the meantime, Bosnia’s Safety Minister Dragan Mektic rushed to assert credit score for foiling a “false flag” operation which might have tarnished his nation’s worldwide repute. “The plan was to discredit Bosnia and present it as a terrorist hub and a menace to the area and Europe,” he mentioned.

It appeared logical when Bosnia’s state prosecutor stepped in to research the allegations. However then it turned out that the main focus of the investigation was Mr Mektic.

The prosecutor suspected the safety minister of showing secret data and giving false statements. Mr Mektic known as the investigation “a farce… to mislead the general public”.

Confusion could be comprehensible. However Bosnians perceive that the claims and counter-claims match right into a queasy ethno-political sport which has endured for the reason that Dayton Settlement introduced an finish to Bosnia’s ruinous battle in 1995.

Learn extra about Bosnia-Herzegovina:

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Ahinici, 1993: A mosque in central Bosnia destroyed throughout clashes with Croat forces

Nationalist politicians in Bosnia-Herzegovina nonetheless promote the concept of secession – and have robust hyperlinks to events in Croatia and Serbia. The governing HDZ social gathering in Croatia has a extremely influential sister organisation over the border.

“They’re extra on the aspect of Croatia than their very own nation,” says Ivana Maric, an impartial political analyst based mostly in Sarajevo.

Ms Maric says it’s “not unimaginable” that the SOA was concerned in a plot, as Zurnal alleged. She factors out that Slovenia not too long ago recalled its ambassador from Zagreb in protest on the Croatian intelligence company’s actions.

“The SOA is aware of that it has companions in Bosnia who will assist,” she says. However she believes the actual drawback is politicians who perpetuate ethnic tensions to divide, rule and revenue.

“All of them want this. That is the sport the politicians play the entire time – good man/unhealthy man, pretending there are many enemies and so they do not need to do something for the voters.”

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Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) at prayer: Within the 1990s they have been at battle with Serbs and Croats

Zurnal journalist Avdo Avdic says his story was the results of months of analysis, however that the state prosecutor confirmed little curiosity within the proof he had gathered. He places this all the way down to ethno-politics.

“For years now we have been warning that our neighbours, Croatia and Serbia, management key establishments in Bosnia. I used to be interviewed on the prosecutor’s workplace, however they didn’t ask a single query associated to this case.”


The affair was slipping from the headlines, however Bosnia’s presidency has apparently revived the row by ordering the overseas ministry to arrange a diplomatic be aware. Avdo Avdic says that is the results of data from Bosnia’s personal intelligence company.

“In all probability they acquired some data which they think about vital,” overseas ministry spokesman Nebojsa Regoje advised the BBC.

“I anticipate there can be no severe penalties on the subject of diplomatic relations or co-operation in any sector – together with safety,” he says.

Enterprise as common, in different phrases. The most recent instalment could have been baffling for outsiders – however for weary onlookers in Bosnia, it’s simply a part of a seemingly endless sequence.

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