Terrorism Regional Stability

Charlie Hebdo: The Balkan Connection

A demonstrator in Strasbourg holding up a ‘Je suis Charlie’ sign. Image: Jwh/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by World Affairs on 4 February, 2015.

Officials in both the Paris State Prosecutor’s office and Bosnia’s Ministry of Defense have now confirmed that the ammunition used in the Charlie Hebdo attacks was produced in Bosnia, and officials now believe that the weapons used in the attacks may have come from Bosnia as well.

Although it is still too early to say with any certainty how these arms and munitions made it to Paris, all of this is hauntingly reminiscent of similar such incidents in the past, such as the murder of Dutch film producer Theo van Gogh, in which, according to veteran Washington Post reporter Douglas Farah, the murder weapon had also been traced to Bosnia (other sources claim the weapon was produced in Croatia). There are other Balkan connections to the recent Paris tragedy as well. The “mentor” of Amedy Coulibaly (who killed a police officer and four other people in the attack on the Parisian kosher grocery store) and Chérif Kouachi (one of the brothers who attacked the Charlie Hebdo offices) was Djamel Beghal, a man who had been originally recruited by Abu Zubaydah, one of Osama bin Laden’s top lieutenants and a man with both Bosnian citizenship and a Bosnian passport. Beghal himself was an associate of another Bosnian jihad veteran, the imam of London’s Finsbury Park mosque, Abu Hamza al-Masri, recently sentenced to life imprisonment in US federal court.


Crescent over The Thames

Image: Wikimedia

This article was originally published by War on the Rocks on 3 September, 2014.

Trafalgar Square, central London. More than 3,000 people are in attendance at the “Rally for Islam.” A notorious firebrand near Nelson’s Column calls for jihad against Britain. Thunderous cheers roll through the crowd and echo ominously toward Whitehall. Placards demand the assassination of the British prime minster and other Western heads of state. The speaker avows that he will not rest until the black flag of Islam flies over Downing Street. He further declares that British citizens are legitimate targets in the imminent holy war because Britain assisted in the destruction of the Caliphate in 1924.

Protesters Unite Against Corruption in Bosnia, Bulgaria, and Beyond

Protest in Sofia
Photo: Railroadwiki/Wikimedia Commons.

This is a cross-post from the IPI Global Observatory.

Since 1989, popular demands and large-scale protests in Eastern Europe helped to successfully topple communist regimes, usually with support from long-standing anti-communist civil society stakeholders. Every Eastern European country has since made significant advances in creating and strengthening its democratic institutions. Many, such as Poland, Lithuania, and (most recently) Croatia, became members of the European Union and NATO. Those still struggling—Albania, Serbia, Macedonia, and Moldova, for example—still see membership in the EU as the pinnacle of their democratic projects.

But upheavals over the past year are challenging many pre-existing notions about protest, democratization, the robustness of civil society, and paths to post-communist transition. Unlike the revolutions of 1989, which focused on such unassailable issues as democracy, human rights, and civic freedoms, the current wave of Eastern European discontent addresses the crippling and omnipresent effects of state-level and public sector corruption. In recent months, wide swaths of these societies have taken to the streets to demand varying degrees of government change, ranging from simple course corrections to full-scale revolution.

Republika Srpska: The Reality of Illusion

Election season: Time for the puppet master / Photo: Victor Nuno, flickr

A recent law on referendums that could technically pave the way for Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity, Republika Srpska, to legally hold a public referendum at some point on independence from Bosnia and Herzegovina should be seen for what it is: An election-year ploy to keep an impossible issue alive.

The international media has been all over the announcement, grabbing headlines with dark fears of secession and boiling ethnic tensions. Republika Srpska leader Milorad Dodik is certainly in his element, and he is more than adept at navigating the international media as well as wooing Bosnian Serb voters. He is savvy and on top of things, and his tactics tend to work.

A referendum on independence is out of the question, and he knows this – though is happy to keep his supporters thinking otherwise – and the rhetoric surrounding this issue (as always) intensifies during an election year. All Dodik needs to do to score points with increasingly disillusioned Bosnian Serbs is bring up the issue with a renewed zeal around about election time and votes are assured.