Today’s news beings word of the arrest of four Islamist terrorists by Bosnian authorities. The four men, three Bosnians and one Swedish national, were planning to carry out terrorist attacks in a Scandinavian country, presumably Sweden. Three men were arrested by authorities while trying to leave Bosnia by car — a bomb was found in the trunk — while the fourth man was picked up in Sarajevo.
Details remain sketchy at this hour, but the Bosnian State Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA) admits to two raids on Sarajevo locations subsequent to the arrests. The improvised explosive device had been requested by radicals in Scandinavia for use there. Think of it as a bespoke bomb.
The multinational and interagency effort to round up this terror cell before they were able to launch an attack — left of boom as counterterrorism professionals like to say — was termed Operation BENELUX. It was led by SIPA in coordination with Dutch and Swedish authorities, as well as the Bosnian intelligence service, OSA.
The Bosnian daily Avaz has details on the arrested terrorists: Osman Abdel Salah (the Swedish citizen, born 1962), Adis Ramić (born 1979), Amar Šljivo (born 1975) and Enver Džanko (born 1973).
This is a developing story….watch this space for more information. This seems to be another case where intelligence-led terrorism prevention and security collaboration worked in saving lives … but in Bosnia there’s usually a complicated, and not always edifying, backstory too.
UPDATE (13 Mar, 1700 EST): Sarajevo media are reporting the arrest of a fifth member of the terrorist ring today in Sarajevo, but his name has not been released.
UPDATE (13 Mar, 1710 EST): Swedish police are expressing skepticism that the arrests are related to jihadist terrorism. They believe the plot stems from a Balkan gang war in the southern Swedish city of Malmö which has gotten ugly of late.
UPDATE (14 Mar, 0945 EST): The Sarajevo daily Avaz has identified the fifth suspect in SIPA custody as Željko Malenica (which is not a normal name for Bosnian Muslim, FWIW).
UPDATE (14 Mar, 1010 EST): SIPA is not commenting on Swedish reports that police there consider this to be a gang-related case. Sarajevo considers this to be a case of terrorism, per the SIPA spokeswoman, as reported today by the Sarajevo daily Oslobodjenje.
This blog has reported prodigiously on Bosnia’s connections to transnational jihadism and terrorism; here are some recent highlights, which may help with the background to this breaking story.
And if you want the full background to this messy story — it’s got spies, Bin Laden, Iranians, plus terrorists from a couple dozen countries — there’s a detailed book you should really read.