On Wednesday, January 25, a team of 150 officers from the State Investigation and Protection Agency of Bosnia-Herzegovina (SIPA) arrested Nusret Imamovic, leader of the main Wahhabi Islamist cell in the country, and his brother Eldin Imamovic.
The pair was seized in an investigation of a gunfire attack at the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo last October, by a Serbian Muslim named Mevlid Jasarevic.
According to Bosnian media, SIPA announced, “The goal of the operation is to collect evidence that could be tied to the attack on the U.S. Embassy and all the evidence will be handed over to the Bosnia-Herzegovina State Prosecutor after forensic processing.”
Local media also said that the authorities suspect Nusret Imamovic was involved in a bombing at a police station in the Bosnian town of Bugojno in June 2010. In the assault on the American embassy, only the shooter and a guard were injured. But in the Bugojno blast one officer was killed and six were wounded. The aim was to terrorize conventional Bosnian Muslims who attend Ajvatovica, a 500-year old spiritual Sufi observance. Wahhabi targeting of Sufis is especially common in South Asia but is seen wherever the bushy-bearded fundamentalists appear.
Nusret and Eldin Imamovic were apprehended in the northeast Bosnian village of Gornja Maoca, an enclave considered Wahhabi headquarters in the partitioned state. Gornja Maoca was raided by Bosnian police in February 2010, and Imamovic was detained with seven followers. In that instance, the Wahhabi cohort in Gornja Maoca was charged with “maintaining a criminal organization, attacking the Bosnian constitutional order, endangering national unity, fomenting racial and religious hatred, discord and intolerance, and unauthorized possession of weapons and explosive materials.” But Imamovic and his associates were then released without trial.
In the U.S. Embassy fusillade, Bosnian authorities said the gunman Jasarevic had been sheltered in Gornja Maoca before he went to Sarajevo for his unsuccessful jihadist action. Jasarevic remains in jail awaiting trial.
As illustrated by the arrest-release-rearrest record of Nusret Imamovic, Bosnian authorities had pursued a strategy of trying to confine the Wahhabi agitators to remote locations, rather than settling the problem by consequential legal proceedings. Few Wahhabis are born in the Balkans. Most long-term adherents to the extremist ideology in Bosnia-Herzegovina were foreign “mujahideen” who came to the country during the 1992-95 war. Although their contribution to the country’s defense against Serbian aggression was slight, some were allowed to remain after imposition of a divided state by the Dayton Accords of 1995.
More recently, however, a second Wahhabi wave has swept across Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro, and southern Serbia. Albanian Muslims in the region have been notably less tolerant to the interlopers, who had no role in the 1998-99 NATO-backed separation of Kosovo from Serbia. Supporters of the Turkish “soft” Islamist regime of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, imbued with the fantasy of resurrecting Ottoman imperial influence in the Balkans, have lately exercised a radicalizing influence, backed by generous financing. This effort has even become visible among Balkan Muslims living in the United States.
The attack on the U.S. Embassy was an apparent turning point for Bosnia-Herzegovina. Prominent Bosnian Muslim intellectuals denounced the Islamic authorities in Sarajevo for their toleration of the radicals.
Nusret Imamovic has denied supporting terrorist actions. But in a brief entry on Imamovic’s Islamist website, putvjernika.com, the day of his latest arrest, a blogger signing only as “Sestra” (sister), said the police action “was a search for a DVD with the alleged testament of Jasarevic” before he journeyed to the capital, automatic weapon in hand. The site’s Bosnian name means “path of believers”, and its entries are scattered with flashing al Qaeda banners.