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Bosnian Police Raid Suspected Islamist Stronghold

Police descended on the northern village of Gornja Maoca.
SARAJEVO (Reuters) - Bosnian police raided a village which is home to followers of the radical Wahhabi branch of Islam today, targeting people whom authorities suspect of destabilizing the fragile Balkan country.

Codenamed "Light," the operation by 600 police officers in the northern village of Gornja Maoca was the largest since the end of the country's 1992-95 war, said Boris Grubesic, a spokesman for the prosecutor who ordered the swoop.

"Seven people were arrested, including the local community leader Nusret Imamovic, and the police have seized some evidence, a large cache of weapons and ammunitions, as well as CDs and DVDs," Grubesic said.

One of the detainees was not a Bosnian citizen, he added.

Grubesic said the operation was carried out with an aim to locate and prosecute individuals suspected of undermining the territorial integrity and constitutional order and inciting ethnic, racial, or religious hatred and intolerance.

Some foreign Islamic fighters, or mujahedin, who stayed on after fighting alongside Bosnian Muslims against Serbs and Croats in the war formed their own community in the village. They were joined by some local followers of the Wahhabi branch.

A witness told Reuters that several residents attacked reporters who tried to enter the village after the raid and broke a camera, forcing them to leave.

About 20 families of the remote mountainous village live in accordance with Shari’a law and their children attend an Arabic-language school which operates outside the official education system.

Most foreign fighters have left the Balkan country under U.S. pressure but the Wahhabi branch has attracted many young Bosnian Muslims in recent years.

Police from both of Bosnia's autonomous regions, the Serb Republic and the Muslim-Croat federation, took part in the operation. They were "looking for items and evidence of criminal activities seen as important for ongoing criminal proceedings," Grubesic said.

In December a Bosnian court indicted a group of radical Muslims on charges of terrorism and arms trafficking. It said they bought and possessed weapons, explosives and various products suitable for making improvised explosive devices.

Police also found video recordings of people being trained in the use of arms and combat activities to carry out an attack. The court did not name the possible targets.