In Their Own Words:
I am going to kill all you Americans. You are going to die by my blood.July 18, 2008
On November 19, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that Elvis Redzepagic was sentenced to more than 16 years in prison for “attempting to provide material support and resources to the designated foreign terrorist organizations the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and the al-Nusrah Front.” In its release, the Justice Department stated that Redzepagic successfully utilized Facebook to spread pro-ISIS ideology and ISIS propaganda was found on his laptop. Additionally, it was found that he frequently visited a Bosnian-language website primarily used in the Balkans by individuals who wish to join ISIS in Syria.
From 2012 to 2015, an estimated 220-330 Bosnian foreign fighters traveled to conflict zones in Iraq and Syria. Bosnians represented the largest contingency of foreign fighters from the Western Balkans, and the second-highest number of foreign fighters per capita out of any European country after Belgium.
Despite these challenges, Bosnia and Herzegovina (Bosnia or BiH) has made strides in its efforts to stem the tide of foreign fighters to Syria and has not recorded new foreign fighters traveling abroad since 2015. BiH was the first European country to begin prosecuting citizens who became foreign fighters. A June 2016 report by the Sarajevo-based Atlantic Initiative noted that travel between Bosnia and Syria had nearly come to a halt in early 2016 due in large part to efforts by Bosnian authorities, which had adapted its counterterrorism legislation to prosecute both returning foreign fighters from Syria, as well as aspiring ones.
Nonetheless, BiH has received international criticism for lenient sentencing and failure to provide sufficient deradicalization resources in prison or upon prisoners’ releases. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed BiH’s repatriation efforts. As of 2019, approximately 260 Bosnian citizens—including 160 women and children—remained in Syrian camps. By April 2020, Bosnia had indefinitely postponed the repatriation of foreign fighters and their families.
To read the Counter Extremism Project (CEP)’s resource Bosnia & Herzegovina: Extremism and Terrorism, please click here.
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