Bosnia and Herzegovina: Witness Says Bosnic Supports ISIS

Husein "Bilal" Bosnic is the leader of the Salafi movement in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and supports the Islamic State (IS), a witness testified Wednesday at his trial for allegedly recruiting BiH citizens to join IS fighters in Syria.

Husein BosnicDino Pecenkovic, 28, of the village of Bihac, testified he spent three months in prison due to his alleged involvement with the case of Mevlid Jasarevic, who shot at the US embassy in Sarajevo in October 2011.

Today, Pecenkovic claims he has separated himself from the fundamentalist Salafi ideology, which he says is "destructive" and "unhealthy for society"

He testified that his father, mother and two brothers are in Aleppo, Syria. He last heard from them a couple of months ago via internet when he refused their request to join them in Syria. He said he found out his father was injured at some point, but does not know how.

"I don't think they will ever return," he said.

Pecenkovic said that his father began to practice Salafism, a more fundamentalist type of Islam, in 2001.

"My father would sometimes go to (the village of) Buzim and listen to Bilal's speeches, and Bilal would also sometimes come to Bihac and speak in front of a small audience," he said.

In 2008, Pecenkovic and his whole family moved from Bihac to Gornja Maoca - a small mountain village where Salafists live in a commune. He said that back then, the movement's leader was Nusret Imamovic – who is believed to be in Syria currently. Pecenkovic lived in Gornja Maoca for three years, until his arrest in connection with the 2011 attack on the US Embassy.

On Oct. 28, 2011, Mevlid Jasarevic shot more than 100 bullets at the US Embassy, injuring one person. He was arrested after being wounded by a police sniper and is currently serving an 18-year prison sentence.

Pecenkovic drove Jasarevic from Gornja Maoca to Sarajevo that day, but claimed he did not know of Jasarevic's intentions. The court released Pecenkovic from custody after three months.

According to Pecenkovic, Imamovic and Bosnic say IS is their country, rather than BiH.

He said his family moved to Gornja Maoca to practice Salafism, which is a more severe form of Islam than is espoused by the official Islamic Community in BiH. He claims members of this group believe that "the world needs to be rid of infidels" and that Salafists "should rule the world."

Gornja Maoca was raided in September 2014 as part of the police operation "Damascus" - which resulted with in the arrest of 16 people, including Bosnic.

When asked to elaborate on the situation among Salafi followers today, Pecenkovic said he is "not in contact with these people anymore".

After the trial, Bosnic's defense attorney, Adil Lozo, said that he believes the witness was influenced to testify this way because he himself was investigated regarding the 2011 attack - an investigation which has never been closed. He also argued that Aleppo is under the control of supporters of Bashar al-Assad, and therefore Pecenkovic's family is probably not supporting IS in Syria.

Lozo said claims Salafists are being persecuted for their world view and the way they dress. Members of the group usually sport long beards and wear short pants, which stop above their ankles.

Prosecutor Dubravko Campara also called in two other witnesses, but they did not show up.