At about the same time this morning that I published this piece explaining how Vladimir Putin’s allies in Bosnia were plotting to dismantle the semi-unitary state that has been in place in the country since 1995, there was a terrorist attack on a police station in the Serb Republic. The attack occurred in Zvornik, a town on the Drina river in eastern Bosnia that was “cleansed” of most of its Muslims during the 1992-95 war.
According to press reports in Sarajevo, the attacker stormed a police station while shouting “Allahu akbar” and firing an automatic weapon, killing one police officer and wounding two others. The terrorist was himself killed by police. Unconfirmed press reports indicate the gunman was sixty-year old Nerdin Ibrić.
Dragan Mektić, Bosnia’s security minister, has confirmed that three days before, Bosnian intelligence had received warning of a possible terrorist attack, though he did not provide details of exactly what that warning consisted of.
While Bosnia has had several domestic terrorist attacks in recent years, to date all have occurred in the Muslim-Croat Federation; today’s attack is the first in many years to take place in the Serb Republic and, as expected, it has served to fan already impressive local paranoia about Bosnia’s extremism and jihadism problem.
This blog has written extensively about Bosnia’s jihad and its implications for international security (start here for a primer) and the atrocity in Zvornik cannot bode well for politics in that troubled country. There is no doubt that this incident will fan the flames of Serbian nationalism and help Putin’s Balkan agenda, while making Bosnia’s problems even worse.
This is a developing story — follow this space for more as it happens…
UPDATE (0730 EST, 28 APR): The Sarajevo daily Avaz has reported that the shooter, Nerdin Ibrić, was a twenty-four year old Muslim who was born in the Zvornik area in 1991, and was ethnically cleansed, i.e. violently expelled, with his family by Serbs when he was a year old. His father is believed to be among the 750 Muslims from the Zvornik area who were murdered by Serbs. Predictably, Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik has responded sharply to the Zvornik attack, stating “Republika Srpska was shot at and we have right to defend ourselves, and we will defend ourselves,” adding that the RS may leave Bosnia’s state-level security structures, which is one more step towards independence, which is the Putin-backed project that I described in detail yesterday.
UPDATE (0805 EST, 28 APR): Bosnian authorities have arrested a man in connection with yesterday’s terrorist attack in Zvornik. The suspect, identified by the Sarajevo daily Avaz as Avdulah Hasanović, is known to the authorities, according to Federal Police director Dragan Lukač, who stated that the man had been in “frequent contact” with the shooter in the lead up to yesterday’s incident. Hasanović has previously been questioned by the authorities for suspected ties to the Islamic State — this was during the recent multinational Operation DAMASCUS to roll up jihadist networks in Bosnia (see here and here for analysis) — but he was released from custody. He was questioned about the recruitment of jihadists headed to Syria, where Hasanović spent part of last year.
UPDATE (1425 EST, 28 APR): Sarajevo media is reporting the arrest of a second suspect in yesterday’s terrorist attack. Kasim Mehidić, a Zvornik area man who is said to be involved with the Salafi jihadist movement in Bosnia. is in the custody of the State Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA) in Tuzla, which can hold him for seventy-two hours for questioning before the prosecutor must file criminal charges to continue his detention.
UPDATE (1650 EST, 28 APR): In a perverse and sad irony of the sort Bosnia specializes in, Dragan Đurić, the forty-eight year old policeman who was murdered yesterday in Zvornik’s jihadist attack, was also a victim of Bosnia’s 1992-1995 war. While Nerdin Ibrić, the killer, had his father murdered by Serbs, Đurić’s father was murdered by Muslims. The twenty-year police veteran will be buried tomorrow with full honors.