After initial searches for an extremist group near Travnik turned up nothing, authorities are stepping up security and looking for ways to ensure people's safety.
By Mladen Dragojlovic for Southeast European Times in Banja Luka -- 03/09/12
Bosnian Special Police leave after a police operation in the northern village of Gornja Maoca on February 2nd 2010. Bosnian police raided a village which is home to followers of the radical Wahabbi branch of Islam. [Reuters]
Terror threats are at the forefront for many citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) as the trial of Mevlid Jasarevic, charged for the October 28th 2011, attack on the US Embassy in Sarajevo, continues.
An August 19th video posted by the website balkanskiemirat showing armed and bearded men in uniform celebrating Ramadan Bayram, prompted some to speculate that the video was recorded in the forest near the city of Travnik, in Central Bosnia, even as a spokesman for the website claims that the video was not recorded there.
Even though rumors of Wahhabi radical groups preparing to wage terror attacks on civilians, foreign embassies and troops seem to surface in the media every few months, authorities are taking the potential threat seriously and are taking action to root out any extremist threats and keep people safe.
Travnik police went into the forest to attempt to identify the place where video was allegedly recorded, but they found nothing.
"We cannot confirm that individuals in this movie are members or close to Wahhabi movement," police spokesman Sefir Barucija said. "In the last several months, as we know, there was no gathering of members of radical movements in this area."
Nonetheless, officials are taking the potential threat seriously and are constantly looking for ways to improve regional security.
BiH Security Minister Sadik Ahmetovic said that several extremist individuals and groups are known to exist in the region, not just among Muslims, but also in all other ethnic groups.
"It is not something new for us or any other country in the region," he told SETimes. "The question is: How many police units are in the country ready to prevent terrorist attacks and other activities of these groups?"
The first line of defense, in this case, is to establish a strong police presence in the area, Ahmetovic said. He stressed that BiH has a good system of security for now, but that it must be improved because it is divided between entities and state.
Ahmetovic added that he believes that the video clip shows that the groups exist in BiH and that it is "most important" to know where they are and who is leading them.
"Some of trials for terrorism are ongoing in BiH Court. In the case of this tape, it is necessary for the state Office of the Prosecutor to order and to finish the investigation," Ahmetovic said.
NATO spokesperson Ines Kuburovic said that if the media reports turned out to be true, then the video clip of a group of Wahhabis in uniforms and armed with AK-47 rifles certainly represents security concern.
One of the media outlets reporting on the video release is Srpska Republika News Agency (SRNA).
Last week, SRNA analyst Dzevad Galijasevic said that risk of terrorist attacks in BiH was very high and that the particular area of Central Bosnia was real source of terrorists and their ideology in the region. Very often in the past, he has warned that radical Islamic groups exist in the Balkans and that they are politically and financially, connected with their centre in Vienna.
According to Galijasevic, the video clip is confirmation that radical Islamic groups exist there and that they are heavily armed.
But, Hattab Hajrullah, from balkanskiemirat.com, said otherwise.
He told SETimes that this video was compilation and mix of various clips from YouTube and Mujahideen of the Caucasus web pages. He said that it is possible for anyone to confirm this simply by typing in the words Chechnya and Caucasus, or similar words, into a search engine.
"I really don't know how somebody can conclude that this video was recorded in BiH, in Travnik area," Hajrullah explained. "I have a feeling that the same person is trying to convince public and media here that he has secret and accurate information, but it is not correct. I was laughing on this travesty of journalism and propaganda."
"From nothing was created a story about something absolutely false," he added.
As proof, he said that if anyone were to watch carefully, that they could see the uniforms, weapons, items or drinks are not from BiH. Even the logo in the right corner of the video belonged to the Caucasus centre. He said that "the people depicted in the video were not Bosnian Mujahideen" and that there was no group at the moment, that he knows, that wants to establish an Emirate.
Hajrullah went on to explain that he feels that there is a great deal of negative media-propaganda which causes fear and misunderstanding among non-Muslim people in regard to Sharia and a desire to Emirate.
"Establishment of Allah's law does not match in plans of those who are ruling the most powerful countries in the world," he said, but "several times in the past they [the Islamic community] stressed that radical Islamic practices were not in accordance with Islamic tradition in BiH."
Reis Ulema Mustafa Ceric, leader of Islamic community in BiH, condemned last October's attack on the US Embassy, he noted.
Belma Redzovic is a young girl from a traditional Muslim family in Banja Luka. She told SETimes that she does not support radical Islam because it does not represent the ideals of the BiH Islamic community.
"It is distorted Islam for us, not the kind we practice here," she said. "I do not like the message that this people are sending about BiH Muslims."
Redzovic explained that her family and many of her friends think the same way.
A few years ago, a member of her family was converted to radical Islam and started making a lot of demands that were not in local tradition. According to Redzovic, when he would visit family, he insisted on having the men and women separated into different rooms. She said that the majority of her family found this to be unacceptable and they didn't invite him to visit anymore.
"Everybody in BiH will confirm that there are a certain number of Islamic radicals, but, for now, just a minority is afraid of them," she said. "The real fear appears just in the period when one of them makes a terrorist attack."