The Croatian Security and Intelligence Agency (SOA) tried to recruit helpless Bosnians to make Bosnia look like a terrorist haven, investigative journalist Avdo Avdic, who broke the story of the agency's alleged plot, said on Wednesday night.
“The Croatian intelligence agency tried to recruit one H.C. (who is now a protected witness in Bosnia’s investigation of the affair) who is an honest man and who honestly got Slovenia’s working visa,” Avdic told N1’s Amir Zukic. “When he tried to cross the Croatian territory, their authorities stopped him and said he wouldn’t be able to cross it unless he cooperates with them. How else was he going to earn his living? They are recruiting helpless Bosnian citizens.”
Last week, Avdic’s investigative outlet Zurnal published interviews with Muslims who said the SOA tried to recruit them to create fake social media accounts and use them to embrace ISIS and transport firearms to masjids in central Bosnia. For this story, he said, they spent months gathering information, documents and speaking to witnesses.
Zurnal’s allegations were in a way confirmed by Bosnia’s Security Minister, Dragan Mektic, who said that the aim of the operation was most likely to justify previous statements made by the Croatian president who claimed there were 10,000 people in Bosnia with very radical Islamist views and intentions.
The weapons, once they were supposed to be stored in masjids, were to be discovered by authorities after a tip-off and to prove Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic’s claims as true, Mektic speculated.
The Zurnal story implicated a Croatian consul in Bosnia and a well-known journalist. All of them dismissed the allegations.
Avdic told Zukic they also contacted the other side – Croatian officials.
“We contacted Bosnia’s Deputy Security Minister Mijo Kresic, a long-time Croat Democratic Union (HDZ BiH) member and sent him our questions, but he never answered,” Avdic added.
According to him, Kresic was reported by the Security Ministry of abuse of office in 2010, when he misused the Ministry’s seal to create a false list of 42 terrorist organisations allegedly existing in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The HDZ BiH is a sister party of Croatia’s ruling party, the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ). The two parties maintain a close connection and often hold meetings on the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Avdic also contacted the Croatian Consul in Bosnia, Ivan Bandic, because Zurnal was informed that the Consul visited Wahhabi camps near the central-Bosnian town of Tuzla. Avdic said Bandic headed one branch of this operation and that he too, allegedly, recruited Salafis to work for Croatian Intelligence.
Wahhabi and Salafi movements are two branches in the Sunni Islam which follow strict interpretations of Islam. In most previous anti-terrorist investigations, these two groups were the main suspects in Bosnia.
“It’s logical that they (Croatia) would try to deny this story. If we look at the storyline, first they said that it’s a ridiculous story, then Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, the Croatian President, said there were contacts with some people in order to protect Croatia’s state interests, and then the SOA director publicly said they contacted H.C.,” Avdic noted.
He concluded that their story was proven correct. The witness they first recorded was questioned by the Prosecution, and Bosnia’s prime minister Denis Zvizdic said that Bosnia’s Intelligence and security agency (OSA) informed the government of cases of Croatia’s intelligence incursions which they intercepted.