By Bojana Barlovac
Belgrade may face the same scenario seen in Sarajevo last Friday, when an Islamist extremist opened fire on the American embassy, some experts believe.
In the aftermath of the terror attack on the US embassy in Sarajevo, Bosnia, some experts say Serbia could be the next target.
Dragan Simeunovic, from the Centre for Security Studies and Terrorism Research, said Wahhabi extremists represent a growing threat to Serbia.
“Not all the Wahhabis in Serbia are dangerous but it is not disputed that there are extremists among them who are willing to take the path of terrorism,” he said.
“Although the number [of Wahhabis] is small, the danger is great,” Simeunovic added, suggesting that Belgrade could be the next target.
Serbia has a significant and sometimes restive Muslim population, concentrated in the southwest Sandzak region on the border with Bosnia and Montenegro.
According to the professor, Wahhabis and other Islamist extremists in the Balkan region are linked to Islamist terrorist networks elsewhere in the world through the Internet.
He has thus pointed out the importance of prevention when it comes to terrorism.
“The importance of preventive action has been demonstrated in the US, where after September 11 2001 attacks, not a single terrorist attack has happened, although several were prepared,” he said.
Zoran Dragisic, professor at Belgrade University’s security faculty, also believes that Serbia is threatened by terrorism but stressed that Serbia is probably not on the list of the countries marked down by Islamic fundamentalists as important targets.
“We have Wahhabis who are dangerous and I believe the security services monitor the work of these groups,” he said.
“They are present in Bosnia, Sandzak, Kosovo and Macedonia, and these groups are interrelated and as such present a threat,” Dragisic noted.
The issue of potential attack has been raised in Serbia following last Friday’s attack on the US embassy in Sarajevo. Mevlid Jasarevic, 23, from Novi Pazar in Serbia, opened fire on the American embassy intermittently for half an hour with an AK-47 assault rifle. He was finally disabled when a Bosnian police sniper shot him in the ankle. There were no fatalities, but Jasarevic wounded a Bosnian police officer, Mirsad Velic.
A day after, Serbian police arrested 17 people suspected of holding extreme Islamist views in raids on three towns in the mainly Muslim southwest Sandzak region: Jasarevic’s hometown of Novi Pazar, as well as Sjenica and Tutin. The detainees were released in the afternoon following questioning.
Serbian Interior Minister Ivica Dacic, who is on a trip in the US, said on Monday that the Serbian police had good relations with US counterparts and will cooperate with them in the fight against radical Islamic extremism in the Balkans.
He said the Serbian police and their American colleagues will in the future “address the issue of the struggle against radical Islam and the Balkans.”