The Department of Justice has released an indictment against six Bosnian immigrants for material support to terrorism, including fund-raising for the Islamic State in Syria. Specifically, DoJ alleges that the six sent money plus military uniforms, tactical gear, firearms accessories, rifle scopes and more to jihadists in Syria. Each charge carries penalties ranging up to fifteen years imprisonment on each count or fines up to $250,000.
The accused ring leader is Ramiz “Siki” Hodžić, who with his wife Sedina coordinated the collection and dispatch of funds and military gear abroad. Helpers included Armin Harčević, Nihad Rosić, Mediha Salkičević, and Jasminka Ramić, all Bosnian immigrants. The Hodžić family and Harčević reside in St. Louis, while Salkičević and Ramić live in the Chicago area, and Rosić lives in Utica, New York.
Using primitive codes, they coordinated their illegal activities via the customary online platforms, especially Facebook and PayPal, while they sent military gear to the Middle East via the U.S. Postal Service. It’s evident the FBI had no great difficulty figuring out what these amateur terrorists were up to. Neither did their decidedly hardline Salafi appearance, which is foreign to Bosnians, indicate much concern for masking their views.
They also engaged in the usual wannabe-mujahid online violent fantasies, leading to Ramiz Hodžić (left) and Nihad Rosić also being charged with conspiring to kill and maim persons in a foreign country. The former, who is a well-known figure in the extremist underground, was stopped in New York while trying to fly to the Middle East to join the jihad himself. It bears noting that Ramiz Hodžić, who did little to mask his extremist views, is a war hero in his native country, having won the Golden Lily, the highest Bosnian Army decoration, in 1995. He is reported to have served with regular units, not with special mujahidin outfits such as the 7th Muslim Brigade or the Al-Qa’ida-linked El-Mujahid Detachment.
The “brother” whom Hodžić sought to join in Syria was Abdullah Ramo Pazara (right), a Bosnian who had emigrated to New York followed by St. Louis, then became a full-time mujahid. In Syria, where the former truck driver arrived in mid-2013, Pazara was known as Abdullah al-Amriki, i.e. “the American,” serving as deputy to the senior Islamic State emir Omar al-Shishani. Much of the efforts of the six Bosnian immigrants now under indictment went to supporting Pazara’s activities in Syria, at least until he was reported killed in action over four months ago.
News of the arrests was met with dismay, and strong condemnation, by Bosnians in America, particularly in St. Louis, which over the past two decades has become the second-biggest Bosnian city in the world. Jihadism is frowned on by the vast majority of Bosnian immigrants in America, most of whom came in the 1990’s as war refugees. While there have been previous incidents of Bosnians “gone wrong” in America, they can be fairly termed isolated incidents, such as Anes Subašić of the so-called Raleigh jihad group, which was rolled up in 2009; Adis Medunjanin, who played a part in Najibullah Zazi’s planned attacks on New York City; and Sulejman Talović, who murdered five people in a spree killing at at Utah mall in 2007, in what may have a been jihad-related act.
Nevertheless, this stands in stark contrast to the situation in Europe, where Bosnia-Hercegovina remains a hotbed of radicalism and Bosnian immigrants are a source of major concern for European security services. Some 300 holy warriors from the Western Balkans have gone to the Middle East to wage jihad in the last three years. Vienna is their nexus, and sensational cases such as the Islamic State “poster girls” who fled Vienna for jihad have caught the eye of the world media. Just last week Austrian authorities announced they were searching for a whole family of five, led by their Bosnian-origin father, believed to have gone to Syria, taking their three children, one just two years old.
These sorts of things mercifully are not happening among Bosnians in America, or at least not with any frequency, but there is no reason to think they may not in time. The radicalization of a dangerous fringe of the Bosnian diaspora is continuing, thanks to online efforts to poison minds. My warnings about jihadism spreading out of Bosnia, across Europe, were downplayed for years by many “experts,” when not being denounced as “hate speech,” and given the current crisis in Syria and Iraq, it’s time for the Bosnian diaspora, anywhere, to be assessed as a venue for radicalism and terrorism. This new case shows the limits of self-policing among Bosnians abroad.