May 7, 2015 / 5:18 PM / 4 years ago

Bosnian Serb police hold 11 Muslims in wake of gun attack

BANJA LUKA, Bosnia (Reuters) - Bosnian Serb police are holding 11 people on suspicion of preparing terrorist acts in the wake of a fatal gun attack on a police station last week, a prosecutor said on Thursday.

Police in Bosnia’s autonomous Serb Republic conducted raids on 32 locations on Wednesday, triggering complaints from some Muslim Bosniaks that they were being unfairly targeted for their religious beliefs.

A lone gunman shouting “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest) stormed a police station in the mainly Serb town of Zvornik last week. One officer and the gunman were killed.

Darko Ilic, chief investigator at the Special Prosecutor’s office in the Serb Republic, said 31 people had been detained and that police had found weapons, ammunition, military uniforms and propaganda material.

“We estimate that 11 people will remain in detention because we have collected evidence that they were obtaining the means to commit a terrorist act,” Ilic told reporters. The names of the detainees are all Bosniak Muslim ones.

He said the rest would be released and stressed that their rights would be upheld. Some Muslim Bosniaks have complained that the raids were random and heavy-handed.

Three of those detained were taken into custody in the Srebrenica area, site of the worst mass killing in Europe since World War Two when some 8,000 Muslim men and boys were massacred by Bosnian Serb forces in July 1995.

Last week’s attack threatens to deepen tensions between Orthodox Serbs and Muslim Bosniaks in Bosnia, which is still deeply divided 20 years after the end of a war that killed 100,000 people during Yugoslavia’s bloody collapse.

Bosniaks were driven out of much of the present-day Serb Republic during the 1992-95 war, but some have since returned.

Camil Durakovic, the Bosniak mayor of Srebrenica, was quoted by the local Fena news agency as saying the conduct of the raid “directly offended the honor of these people and their basic human rights”, accusing police of harassing people because of their Islamic beliefs.

The vast majority of Muslims in Bosnia follow a moderate form of Islam, but there is concern over the growing influence of more fundamentalist beliefs, especially among young people struggling with poverty, unemployment and the slow pace of progress since the war.

Reporting by Gordana Katana; Writing by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Matt Robinson and Andrew Roche

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