Terrorists have been working to recruit non-Arab sympathizers — so-called "white Muslims" with Western features who theoretically could more easily blend into European cities and execute attacks — according to classified intelligence documents obtained by The Associated Press.
A 252-page confidential report jointly compiled by Croatian and U.S. intelligence on potentially dangerous Islamic groups in Bosnia suggests the recruitment drive may have begun as long as four years ago, when Arab militants ran up against tough post-9/11 security obstacles.
"They judge that it is high time that their job on this territory should be taken over by new local forces ... people who are born here and live here have an advantage which would make their job easier. By their appearance, they are less obvious," the report reads. Arabs, it adds, "have become too obvious, which has made their job difficult."
Bosnia's minister of security, Barisa Colak, acknowledged the existence of the intelligence report but said authorities had no concrete evidence that recruitment efforts are widespread. There are no known cases of a Balkan "white Muslim" recruit being involved in an actual attack.
The vast majority of Bosnia's Muslims rejects the mujahedeen's fiery brand of Islam. Yet young, restless men frustrated with 40 percent joblessness and angered by real or perceived insults to Islam can be open to hard-line dogma, the Prague-based think tank Transitions Online said in a recent report.
"A pool of potential white recruits carrying Bosnian or even Western passports would presumably be of great value to terrorists," it said, calling the Balkan country "a deeply traumatized society susceptible to extremism."
"Muslims are going through a very tempting time," conceded Mustafa Ceric, the leader of Bosnia's Islamic community. He insisted, however, that there was no stomach for extremist violence after years of devastating ethnic conflict.
"If we wanted terrorism, we had a chance to do so in the heat of our suffering, and we did not," he said in an interview.
The U.S.-Croatian report says infiltration actually dates back long before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. It says Islamic militants with ties to al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations have been crisscrossing the Balkans for more than 15 years, financed in part with cash from narcotics smuggling and coming from Afghanistan and points further east via Turkey,
Several Islamic militants who fought in the former Yugoslavia went to Spain, bringing back new military skills and expertise as well as access to contacts throughout Europe, a Western diplomatic official with intimate knowledge of counterterrorism measures in Spain told the AP on condition of anonymity.
"Yugoslavia was a meeting point," he said. Among the Islamic leaders Bosnian authorities are monitoring closely is Nezim Halilovic, chief mufti of the King Fahd Cultural Center. The mosque, one of dozens being built around Sarajevo with Saudi donations, can accommodate 5,000 people and is part of a $9 million complex that includes a library, a sports hall, restaurants and classrooms for studying Arabic and the Quran.
Its imam has repeatedly has been accused of using his sermons to preach violence in Afghanistan, Chechnya, Israel, Iraq and Kashmir. Nothing like that was heard at one of his recent noon prayer sermons; addressing throngs of heavily bearded men and burqa-clad women, he spoke proudly of "bringing Bosnian Muslims back to Islam."
Let's hope the Liberals on both sides of the pond don't protest this report as "Racial Profiling."