A war of words erupted on Thursday between Bosnian and Croatian officials after a day earlier the Sarajevo-based Zurnal outlet published a report claiming Croatian intelligence officials and diplomats tried to recruit Muslim extremists to bring weapons and explosives to Muslim places of gathering in central Bosnia.
Bosnia’s Security Minister Dragan Mektic confirmed the media report, telling N1 that “for a year or two already, we have certain intelligence saying that the Croatian service tried to recruit some of our people, Bosnian citizens, who have nothing to do with the Salafi movement, to buy those weapons and transport them to a masjid (gathering place for prayer) near Doboj.”
He claimed that Croatia’s secret service then tried to manipulate a police operation that would reveal those weapons and in this way confirm a previous statement of the Croatian President that there were 10,000 terrorists in Bosnia and that the country was a terrorist hub.
“This was an attack on the integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Mektic said, adding the whole thing was supposed to be staged so that Grabar Kitarovic’s statement did not appear as made up. If the plan would have succeeded, “it would be the final nail which would be hammered into Bosnia’s coffin, as then it could be claimed that ‘yes, Bosnia and Herzegovina is a state of terrorism and extremism’,” he said.
“We could not let this happen,” he added.
The Bosniak member of the tripartite Presidency, Sefik Dzaferovic, announced he will initiate a discussion in the Presidency on the matter and ask the Security Minister for more details on it.
“If what the media reported is true, then this is a very heavy issue that will need a reaction in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” he said.
“Generally, this example, if true, as well as earlier statements coming from Croatia on the matter, where the issue of radicalisation in Bosnia is being blown out of proportion and various numbers are being thought up, is not contributing to good relations between our countries,” he said.
“Our neighbours, including Croatia, will have to treat Bosnia and Herzegovina with respect, just as Bosnia is treating Croatia,” he added.
However, Dragan Covic, the leader of the main Bosnian Croat party in the country, the Croat Democratic Union (HDZ), called the media reports a “manipulation,” that goes “beyond everything that I expected from those people.”
A journalist and presenter who was mentioned in the Zurnal report, Mato Djakovic, also denied the allegations and announced he will sue both Zurnal and Mektic.
“I think only a sick mind can create such a construction. I have nothing to do with the Croatian secret service, nor do I have anything to do with Salafis or any weapons,” he said.
The spokesperson for Croatia’s President, Ivana Crnic, said that the “Office of the President of Croatia does not intend to comment on these malicious, completely baseless and politicised constructions.”
Meanwhile, the US Ambassador to Bosnia, Eric Nelson, met with Security Minister Mektic on Thursday to “thank Bosnia and Herzegovina for its partnership in combating terrorism and to discuss other security and humanitarian challenges.”
Amb Nelson met with #BiH Minister of Security Mektic today to thank BiH for its partnership in combating terrorism and to discuss other security and humanitarian challenges. pic.twitter.com/lDLqEobJBN
— US Embassy Sarajevo (@USEmbassySJJ) March 13, 2019