Mostar car bombing
|Mostar car bombing|
|Location||Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina|
|Date||18 September 1997 |
|Car bomb attack|
|Motive||Possibly retribution against the Croatian Defence Council|
A car bomb exploded in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina on 18 September 1997, injuring 29 people and destroying or damaging 120 apartments, as well as 120 vehicles. The attack is thought to have targeted Croat civilians and policemen as retribution against the Croatian Defence Council (HVO), which had fought Bosniak forces for control of the city during the Croat–Bosniak War.
The attack was organized by Ahmad Zuhair Handala, with his associates, Ali Ahmed Ali Hamad from Bahrain, Nebil Ali Hil, nicknamed Abu Yemen, Saleh Nedal and Vlado Popovski from the Republic of Macedonia. At least two of the arrested had links to Al-Qaeda. The attackers did not mention that whether the bombing was religiously motivated or whether it was retribution against the Croatian Defense Council.
On 18 September 1997, a car bomb exploded on Splitska Street, in front of a police station in majority-Croat western Mostar. During the Bosnian War, the building had housed the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Croatian Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia. Twenty-nine people were either seriously or lightly wounded in the attack, including three police officers. The explosion created a crater 240 centimetres (94 in) wide and 85 centimetres (33 in) deep. In total, 120 apartments sustained some level of damage, of which 56 were completely destroyed. About 120 vehicles were also affected, including 46 that were completely destroyed.
NATO-led Stabilization Force (SFOR) peacekeepers were the first to arrive at the scene. An investigation commenced the following day, and was carried out by the criminal police of the Herzegovina-Neretva Canton with help from experts from Zagreb and Split. Immediately after the attack, domestic and foreign security agencies began searching for the perpetrators. Bosniak politicians, including prime minister Haris Silajdžić and media outlets accused the Croats of carrying out the attack. As it occurred shortly after the Croat and Bosniak city police forces were united, and after the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) secured victory at the general elections, SFOR suspected three possible motives. In their opinion, it was either politically motivated and designed to sabotage the re-unification of the city's police force; mafia-related; or carried out by Islamic extremists with the goal of creating as many casualties and causing as much damage as possible. SFOR considered the latter hypothesis the least likely of the three, as it expected that a terrorist group would have taken responsibility immediately after such an attack. These doubts were soon dispelled.
Handala's name was made public by the leader of the Wahhabi community in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Alu Husin Imad, known as Abu Hamza. Abu Hamza told reporters that "[the Wahhabist community] doesn't justify, but understands the crime". Handala and his associates apparently carried out the attack as a retribution to the Croatian Defence Council (HVO), which had fought the predominantly Muslim Bosniaks during the war.
Arrests and trial
In September 1998, Italian attorneys issued an international warrant for a group of criminals suspected of multiple crimes in Italy, including terrorist acts. Among the group was Saleh Nedal. He was arrested in Travnik in April 1999. Investigating judge Mirjana Grubešić and district attorney Marinko Jurčević, both Croats, asked the County Court in Travnik to comply with the Italian request to extradite Saleh but the court, presided by Senad Begović, a Bosniak, ruled against Saleh's extradition in July 1999. The same judge later signed a decree which terminated Saleh's imprisonment. The Supreme Court of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, presided by judge Nazif Sulman, a Bosniak, affirmed the decree in August 1999. Saleh later warned Zuhair, who fled Bosnia before the start of his trial on 18 September 1998.
During the police investigation, Ali Ahmed Ali Hamad admitted committing the crime and made the same admission before the investigating judge. However, he denied any involvement at the trial, stating that the police had coerced him by promising a quick trial followed by his release. He was not charged with terrorism, but for constructing a car bomb, a criminal act which endangered the general safety and as a result all the accused received lighter sentences. Zuhair was tried in absentia and sentenced to ten-years in prison, while Ali Hamad received eight- and Nebil Ali Hil five-years in prison. Handala was eventually arrested after the September 11 attacks, and in 2007 was being detained in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.
- 2015 Zvornik police station shooting
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