Bosnia Security Minister: Balkan Crime Groups 'Smuggle Weapons to France'
Organized crime gangs in the Western Balkans are cooperating with criminal French counterparts to smuggle weapons, according to Bosnia's security minister.
Dragan Mektic made the comment Thursday at a conference held in response to recent terrorist attacks in Paris, just after he returned from a meeting with France's interior minister and chief prosecutor.
"For a number of years, there has been a continuous relationship between the Western Balkans and the French Republic in regards to illegal weapons smuggling," he said.
While he did not suggest that the weapons used in the Paris attacks were smuggled through the Balkans, Mektic said that investigations showed that groups import explosives to France from several Western Balkan countries that have been through armed conflicts in the recent past.
Mektic named Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia, Kosovo and Macedonia.
He announced that a regional team of experts will soon be set up to tackle such organized crime channels, in cooperation with regional prosecutors.
Mektic pointed out that there are some local communities in Bosnia and Herzegovina in which rule of law is weak, leading some to the paths of violent radicalism and terrorism.
He called for police to more forcefully impose law in those communities. He mentioned the case of the north-eastern village of Gornja Maoca, where a group of radical Islamists have set up their own patrols and do not send their children to school.
He also spoke about Wednesday's terrorist attack in the Sarajevo suburb of Rajlovac in which a young man shot and killed two soldiers from the Bosnian army.
Mektic says Enes Omeragic walked into a betting shop with an automatic gun, past onlookers, and shot the two soldiers to death.
Omeragic then reportedly left the shop and spotted another soldier boarding a bus. He fired shots towards the vehicle but did not seriously injure anybody.
Then, Omeragic is said to have returned to his nearby home where he killed himself by detonating a hand grenade as police surrounded the house.
Mektic said Omeragic was not on any official databases of radicalized individuals. Authorities had, however, been aware of Omeragic's father-in-law, Muhamed Meco, who was previously arrested and investigated in relation to terrorist activities, but released due to lack of evidence.
Omeragic was allegedly radicalized in the past two years, cutting off contact with his father and brother, who opposed his views and instead fostering an increasingly strong relationship with his controversial father-in-law.
Mektic said that Bosnia's security institutions, such as its intelligence agency, needed more funding if they were to properly tackle such cases and avoid their future recurrence.
He gave an example of how the government had been unable to track down who and from where a controversial blog was being run.
Mektic said he only found out who was behind the website when two unnamed hackers contacted him to let him know.
Vijesti Ummeta celebrated Wednesday's fatal shootings.
"This is only the beginning, o Bosnia, o Europe, this is only the beginning of spilling your dirty blood which will run down your dirty streets," the post reads.
This article was amended on November 24.