What’s Past is Prologue: The Case of Mirsad Bektašević and the Bosnian Cell

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Bektasevic, Ikanovic, and Cesur during their trial

I’m a great believer in the value of “taking back-bearings,” a phrase I picked up reading the exploits of George Smiley.  Normally this means something like determining one’s current position by relating it to known points visible to the observer and easily identified on a map.  In my case, I mean looking back at previous events, incidents, and cases to help understand the present, and often, the mistakes made in past responses that helped contribute to it.

I’d like to do that in this article by taking a look back at one of the first high-profile (at least in terrorism circles) cases involving the online radicalization of young men leading to terrorist plots in their own countries.  On October 19, 2005, Bosnian police arrested two young men at an apartment in the Butmir district of Sarajevo following an 8-month operation involving the secret services of 9 different countries.  The two, a young Swede born in Novi Pazar, Serbia, named Mirsad Bektašević and a Dutch-Turk named Abdulkadir Cesur were caught red-handed with an arsenal of explosives and guns.  The police also discovered a video of the culprits expressing their intent to strike at those governments involved in the oppression of their Muslim brethren in Afghanistan, Chechnya, and Iraq.  Their strike was probably going to be against the British Embassy in Sarajevo. Continue reading

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