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Europe

From Podgorica to Paris - Terror in the shadows

Does a Montenegrin citizen, who was arrested in Bavaria, have links to the Paris terror attacks? In the Balkan country there is a unregarded Islamist scene. Nemanja Rujevic reports.

Kalashnikov submachine guns, handguns, grenades and explosives. – a whole weapons arsenal discovered by German investigators in a routine check on the Autobahn 8 highway near Bad Feilnbach. Well hidden in a rented VW Golf 5 car, driven by Montenegrin citizen Vlatko V. (the suspect's full name is known by DW).

Media reports said his navigation system had a Paris address as its planned destination. He is supposed to have told police that he just wanted to see the Eiffel Tower. He had no knowledge of the presence of weapons in his vehicle.

This happened on November 5, 2015 – just eight days before the attacks in Paris. The German authorities only informed their Montenegrin colleagues on November 10, according to Podgorica. In Germany, the arrest is apparently seen as an isolated case of weapons-smuggling, with no connection with terrorism.

A high-ranking Montenegrin politician, whose name was not published, maintained in a report by the news agency Mina, that is was a vicious allegation that a Montenegrin citizen could have had anything to do with the Paris attacks. The pro- government newspaper "Pobjeda" described the media reports from Germany as "propaganda", which was supposed to prevent the planned NATO entry by Montenegro.

Precarious circumstances

The Montenegrin police were quick to publish that Vlatko. V. had not attracted their attention – and more importantly that he was not a Moslem, but an Orthodox Christian. Zoran Miljanić is furious: "It is not clear at all how the Montenegrin police could come to such a quick conclusion ruling out a connection between the suspect and the Paris attacks," the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee for Security told DW. "The remark that the man is orthodox also made no sense," said the Montenegrin politician. People from all religions could be involved in terrorist activities and their logistics, he said.

According to DW the 51-year-old Vlatko V. comes from a poor village in the Bioče region, about 20 kilometers north of the capital Podgorica. He is not married and has no children. His brother and other relatives describe him as a man who lives in precarious circumstances, who earns his money through casual labor in the fields or vineyards. His relatives did not know that he was in a car on his way from Podgorica to Paris. Two days after the attacks, on November 15, his brother was interrogated by Montenegrin police.

IS Flaggen in Gornja Maoca Bosnien und Herzegowina

IS signs in a village on neighboring Bosnia-Herzegovina

Islamist propaganda

The Montenegrin authorities know that there is an Islamist scene in the tiny Balkan state. Jihadist propaganda circulates especially in the border regions to Bosnia, Kosovo and Albania, where many Moslems live. In addition, it's general knowledge that individual Montenegrin citizens have joined terrorist groups in Syria.

At the end of October Syria extradited a wounded Islamic State (IS) fighter to Montenegro. Last June the IS produced a sophisticated video for the Balkans, in which Moslems in the region were called upon to kill their neighbors. Hundreds of fighters from Kosovo, Bosnia and Serbia are already fighting in the Middle East.

For this reason the Montenegrin parliamentary deputy Miljanić has proposed a tightening of laws so that Montenegrin citizens who take part in wars abroad can also be prosecuted in their homeland.

"There are individuals, perhaps even organized groups that participate abroad in wars. According to our information there are no training camps for Jihadists in Montenegro but in countries where there are such camps it's only a two or three-hour drive – Bosnia, Kosovo, perhaps also Macedonia."

It remains unclear whether Vlatko V. knew what he was transporting in his vehicle and who should have accepted his car. Because although numerous Bavarian politicians point to this, there has been no confirmation of a connection to the Paris attacks. What is clear, however, is that the collaboration between the German and Montenegrin authorities in this case has been anything other than effective.

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