Suspected Syria Fighters Flown to Bosnia and Herzegovina

19. December 2019.19:43
Several people suspected of going to fight in Syria on behalf of the so-called Islamic State have arrived by plane in Sarajevo and have been detained, the Bosnian state prosecution confirmed.

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The Bosnian state prosecution announced on December 19 that several suspects had arrived in Sarajevo after being repatriated by plane from Syria and were being held in detention.

It said they were investigation for the criminal offences of “organising a terrorist group, illegally forming and associating with foreign paramilitary or para-police formations, and terrorism”.

In recent days the Bosnian state prosecution, in collaboration with other state institutions, the United States government and the US embassy in Sarajevo, has taken a series of actions resulting in the repatriation of several Bosnian citizens who allegedly participated in the conflict in Syria.

The prosecution said it is investigating these suspects for the criminal offences of “organising a terrorist group and illegally establishing and associating with foreign paramilitary or para-police formations in relation to a terrorist offence”.

International arrest warrants have been issued for some of those people under an order from the state court, the prosecution added.

The Ministry of Security confirmed that seven men, six women and 12 children had arrived in Sarajevo.

“Upon arrival at Sarajevo International Airport, they passed through appropriate checks by the Border Police of Bosnia and Herzegovina and received the necessary assistance, after which they were transported to a reception centre for further checks and medical assistance,” the ministry said.

A few weeks ago, the Bosnian state-level presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina called on all relevant institutions to accelerate the return of 24 Bosnian citizens from Syria.

Security minister Dragan Mektic announced their return for December 6, but this was delayed due to what officials described as unforeseen circumstances.

The Security Ministry also announced that all preparations for receiving Bosnian citizens returning from Syria had been made. Their return was initially expected at the beginning of October 2019, but this was also postponed.

BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina recently reported that, due to the focus on the security aspects of the return of Bosnian citizens from Syria, the development of a strategy for working with female and child returnees has been hampered.

Humanitarian organisations have been warning countries for months to accelerate the return of their citizens for Syria because conditions in camps there are becoming increasingly tough, particularly for children.

More than 70,000 people, more than 90 per cent of whom are women and children, are currently accommodated at the Al-Hol camp in Syria.

Dozens of Bosnian citizens, most of whom are children, are still in the Syrian camps. At the beginning of November, security minister Mektic said he believed that 260 Bosnian citizens were in camps in Syria.

The Ministry of Security believes that 45 men and 55 women from Bosnia and Herzegovina were in Syria prior to the first organised return of people who were living in territory formerly held by the so-called Islamic State.

So far the state court has sentenced 25 men to a total of 47 years and two months in prison for going to fight in Syria, trying to go there or recruiting others to do so.


NOTE: This article was amended after an announcement by the Security Ministry.

Semir Mujkić

This post is also available in: Bosnian