SFOR detains Algerian-born man believed to be a threat to security
December 23, 2003
Peacekeepers detained a man early Sunday under suspicion he was a threat to the country’s security.
The local media reported the man detained in the central Bosnian town of Travnik is Mhamed Perenda Zitouni, born in Algeria in 1972 and a naturalized Bosnian citizen.
The Stabilization Force did not name the detained person and gave few details on the arrest in a Monday news release.
“We’re not releasing any details on the actual identity itself,” said Lt. Cmdr. Benjamin Thorp, SFOR spokesman.
In an operation that started half an hour after midnight, peacekeepers searched the suspect’s home and confiscated some materials.
Zitouni’s wife, Melika Zitouni, told The Associated Press the seized materials were audio and videotapes containing “parts of the Quran, music and cartoons.”
While SFOR said the man was “suspected of engaging in activities that threaten the safety and security of [Bosnia and Herzegovina],” Thorp did not say if those activities were also a threat to SFOR.
“I can’t go into details of threat,” he said. “The local police have taken part in this operation. It is a sign of gradual progression of operations over here. The [Bosnian] authorities do take a bigger role in operations.”
Thorp pointed out that the operation was within SFOR’s mandate and that the local police assisted SFOR by providing security at the site.
The news on the operation came less than a week after U.S. Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina Clifford Bond addressed the presence of terrorists in the country.
“The threat of terrorism exists throughout the region, as we saw from the terrible event in Istanbul a few weeks ago. The threat, I believe, is present here in Bosnia,” Bond said according to news reports.
“I think in part [it] was brought in by foreign elements during the period of the war here and they have the potential of supporting terrorists either in their transit through Bosnia or in carrying out activities here.”
A number of Muslim fighters known as Mujaheedin came to Bosnia during the 1992-1995 war. Some stayed after the war ended and were given Bosnian citizenship.
Zitouni is being held at an undisclosed, secure location.
“As we continue to investigate this case, more details will be available if we decide it will not compromise the future operations,” Thorp said.