SARAJEVO (Reuters) - Islamic State flags are not flying in Bosnia, Prime Minister Denis Zvizdic said on Tuesday, dismissing allegations by some European leaders that radical Bosnian Muslims in the Balkan country were posing a terrorist threat for Europe.
Bosnian Muslims generally practice a moderate form of Islam but some have adopted radical Salafi Islam from foreign fighters who came to the country during its 1992-95 war to fight alongside Muslims against Orthodox Serbs and Catholic Croats.
Some joined Islamic State in Syria and Iraq but police said departures had stopped completely in the past 18 months and more than half of those who returned have been jailed under a law prohibiting people to fight in foreign countries.
Czech President Milos Zeman has said there was a risk Islamic State may form its European base in Bosnia, where “ISIS (Islamic State) black flags are already flying in several towns”, according to reports.
Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic has warned of “thousands of fighters returning to Bosnia from Syria and Iraq”, while Croatian magazine Globus last week put the number of radicalized Bosnian Muslims at 5,000-10,000.
Zvizdic said such allegations were unfounded and politically motivated and could damage Bosnia as an investment and tourism destination.
“ISIS flags are not flying in Bosnia,” Zvizdic told reporters after meeting the security minister and the heads of five security and intelligence agencies.
“There have been no departures to foreign war zones, we have not had any incident that could be characterized as an act of terrorism and we work to prevent the possibility of any such incident,” Zvizdic said, referring to the last two years during which several terrorist attacks took place across Europe.
Bosnia’s security agencies say a total of 240 Bosnian citizens have departed to fight for Islamic State since 2012, and 116 remained there. Out of 44 who had returned to Bosnia, 23 were jailed.
Security Minister Dragan Mektic said terrorism threats in Bosnia were mainly external and its agencies last month prevented a person with possible links to terrorists from entering the country.
In 2015, two Bosnian army soldiers and a policeman were killed in two separate attacks in Bosnia. No links to wider groups was found.
Reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Ivana Sekularac and Janet Lawrence