Bosnian minister accuses Croatia of defamation plot against his country

Bosnia’s state prosecution on Thursday said it was probing allegations by Dragan Mektic, Bosnia’s Security Minister that the Croatian intelligence service hatched a plan to portray the country as an Islamist hub, recruiting members of the ultra-conservative Wahhabi movement to smuggle arms into hard-line Muslim Bosnian villages.

Bosnia’s State Prosecutor’s Office said it had filed a case with the Special Department for Organized Crime, Economic Crime and Corruption to determine the allegations.

“All persons who have made these allegations and had knowledge about the activities mentioned will be examined,” the state prosecution said.

Mektic on Thursday claimed that Croatia’s security and intelligence service came up with the plan, in order to present Bosnia as a threat to European security.

“The plan was to discredit Bosnia and show it as a terrorist hub and a threat to the region and Europe,” Mektic told the Sarajevo-based news site radiosarajevo.ba.

Mektic spoke out after the website Zurnal.info on Wednesday accused Croatia’s intelligence service of recruiting Bosnian citizens to smuggle arms into Wahhabi villages.

Citing anonymous sources, and not backing up its claims with any documents, the website claimed the goal was to reveal the villages in Zenica Doboj Canton, in the country’s Federation entity, as terrorist hubs.

Mektic said the action was designed to support Croatian President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic’s claim in December 2016 that Bosnia was awash with terrorists returning from the Middle East.

“The intelligence operation … followed … the statement of Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic that Bosnia was full of terrorists and weapons and that Bosnia was threatened with terrorism, which I denied as an untruth and nonsense,” Mektic said.

On Thursday, in Neum, Bosnia, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and Bosnian Croat leader Dragan Covic dismissed the allegations. “This is a matter of creative manipulation,” Plenkovic said.

“Croatia fights against terrorism and participates in this fight with its partners. Bosnia is our partner in the fight against terrorism and will remain so,” Plenkovic said.

Covic said the accusation was nothing new. “It is no surprise, as everything goes through the institutions of Bosnia.”

In December 2016, Grabar Kitarovic said thousands of ISIS fighters had returned from the Middle East to Bosnia, quoting a report by Bosnia’s own State Investigation and Protection Agency, SIPA.

Bosnia’s Security Minister disputed this, saying he did not know where Kitarovic got her numbers from. Other Bosnian officials and local Islamic religious authorities also disputed the claim, as BIRN has previously reported.