Bosnia says arrests foiled Islamist attack in Sarajevo

Bosnian military personnel and police are seen working in the Sarajevo suburb of Rajlovac after two members of Bosnia's armed forces were killed in a suspected terror attack in November (AFP Photo/Elvis Barukcic)

Sarajevo (AFP) - A Bosnian anti-terrorism prosecutor has said the recent arrests of 11 suspected jihadists prevented an attack that purportedly would have killed around 100 holiday revellers in Sarajevo, state television said Saturday.

The arrests were carried out Tuesday in several parts of the Bosnian capital.

On Friday, a Sarajevo court ordered eight of the suspects to be held for 30 days, Bosnian television reported.

It quoted prosecutor Dubravko Campara as telling an investigating magistrate that the group were planning "a terrorist act during end-of-year celebrations."

"They were threatening to carry out an explosives attack in which 100 people would be killed," RTRS television quoted Campara as saying.

The suspects' lawyers dismissed the allegations as a "simple farce" and said their clients were merely "practising their religion".

Prosecutors said the suspects habitually gathered at a place of worship set up in a rented house in a Sarajevo suburb.

After the arrests, prosecutors gave reporters a photograph taken at the site showing a printout of the Islamic State group flag on the wall.

"Physical evidence of the links with the Islamic State group structures were seized," Campara said, while adding that no explosives were found in the raids.

The operation was conducted in several Sarajevo districts, including in Rajlovac, where two members of Bosnia's armed forces were killed in November in a suspected terror attack by a man who then blew himself up.

Around 40 percent of Bosnia's population of 3.8 million are Muslim, most of whom follow a moderate form of Islam. Orthodox and Catholic Christians make up most of the rest of the population.

Of some 200 Bosnian nationals who joined jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq in 2012 and 2013, at least 26 have died while about 50 have returned to the Balkan country, authorities say.

Last year Bosnia adopted a new law providing for jail sentences of up to 20 years for jihadists and their recruiters, since when the number leaving for the Middle East appears to have dropped off.