Bosnian Islamist Gets 18 Years for U.S. Embassy Attack

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A Bosnian court on Thursday sentenced an Islamist who opened fire at the U.S. embassy in Sarajevo last year to 18 years in prison.

"Mevlid Jasarevic committed a terrorist act by shooting 105 bullets over 50 minutes towards the American embassy," judge Branko Peric said. "This court sentences him to 18 years in prison."

Jasarevic opened fire on the embassy in October 2011 with an automatic weapon before being shot by police and arrested. One police officer was injured in the attack.

"Jasarevic wanted to express his dissatisfaction with the position of Muslims in Bosnia and the world," the judge said.

The court rejected the charges that Jasarevic had organized a terrorist group but the sentence was the heaviest ever handed out by the Bosnian judiciary on terrorism charges.

The court acquitted his two co-accused, Emrah Fojnica and Munib Ahmetspahic, charged with helping him prepare the October 28 attack and later covering up evidence.

The three defendants were not in court when the verdict was announced.

"We are satisfied with the sentence given to Mevlid Jasarevic as it is almost the maximum one for the act of terrorism," the prosecutor's spokeswoman Selma Hecimovic said.

"However, we will lodge an appeal for the part of the verdict acquitting Emrah Fojnica and Munib Ahmetspahic because we consider that they had helped Jasarevic to commit the terrorist act," Hecimovic told AFP.

Jasarevic, 23, is a Serbian citizen of Muslim origin who had joined Islamists in Bosnia, in the northeastern village of Gornja Maoca.

The isolated hamlet is considered the headquarters of the Bosnian Wahhabi movement, an ultra-conservative branch of Islam that is dominant in Saudi Arabia. It has been targeted in several police operations in the last few years.

During the trial, that opened in June, the defendants have all pleaded not guilty to the terrorism charges.

In a video, recorded before the attack and broadcast by the prosecution at the trial, Jasarevic said his act was a response to the "American combat against Islam."

"I attack the Americans who have launched a combat against Islam and Muslims throughout the world," he said in the video message.

"I warn the Muslims of Bosnia. They should wake up, be prudent and find again their faith in Allah."

In April, Jasarevic was also indicted by a U.S. jury on attempted murder, destruction of property and firearm charges.

During Bosnia's 1992-1995 war between its Croat, Muslim and Serb communities, a large number of volunteers from Muslim nations flocked to the Balkan country to take up arms.

Many of these Muslim fighters stayed on after the conflict ended and obtained Bosnian citizenship. Some in the mostly moderate Bosnian Muslim community have converted to this more radical branch of Islam. According to security estimates, there are some 3,000 members of Wahhabi movement.

The local security forces have been cracking down on the Wahhabis.

In September, Bosnian Appeals court upheld jail terms of up to four and a half years for three Islamists found guilty for having prepared between 2007 and 2009 a "terrorist act" against European Forces in Bosnia (EUFOR) and local Christian communities.

Another radical Islamist was sentenced in July to 14 years in prison for the summer 2010 attack of a police station in central Bosnia that left one officer killed and several injured.

Bosnian Muslims, who make up 40 percent of the Balkan country's 3.8 million inhabitants, mostly practice a moderate Islam.

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