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Bosnia

Bosnia police arrest 11 suspected of involvement in Syria, Iraq wars

Bosnian police have arrested 11 people suspected of fighting for Islamist militants in Syria or Iraq or otherwise supporting such groups. Five suspects arrested in a similar operation two months ago remain in custody.

Bosnia's State Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA) said in a statement issued on Thursday that more than 100 police officers took part in the operation, dubbed "Damascus," in five towns including the capital, Sarajevo.

"The detained are suspected of links with financing, organizing and recruiting Bosnian citizens to leave for Syria and Iraq and fight in armed conflicts there alongside radical terrorist groups and organizations," the SIPA statement said.

SIPA added that the raids had also turned up evidence that some of the suspects had weapons or explosives.

This is the second such operation conducted by SIPA, following a similar operation two months ago in which 16 people were arrested. Of those, five remain in custody, including Bilal Bosnic, who is thought to be the one of the leading figures in the ultra-conservative Salafi movement in Bosnia.

Arrests under new legislation

The arrests in both operations were carried out under legislation passed back in April, which introduced jail terms of up to 10 years for people convicted of leaving the country to fight for Islamist militants or actively supporting such groups.

It is unclear exactly how many Bosnians have left the country to fight alongside "Islamic State" (IS) Syria or Iraq but some estimates put that number at around 150, with 50 having since returned and a further 20 having been killed.

While most Bosnian Muslims are either secular or practice a moderate form of Islam, there has been an increase in the number of radical Islamists since the country's civil war.

Between 1992 and 1995 many came from abroad to fight alongside the Bosnian Muslims against the Serbs and Croats. While most are thought to have left after the war, some stayed on in the country.

pfd/ipj (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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