Gunman shoots at U.S. embassy
Shooter wounded, held after incident in Bosnian capital
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina – A man armed with hand grenades and an automatic weapon opened fire outside the U.S. Embassy in Bosnia Friday in what authorities called a terrorist attack. A policeman and the gunman were wounded, but the embassy said none of its employees was hurt.
Sarajevo Mayor Alija Behmen said the gunman “got off a tram with a Kalashnikov and started shooting at the American Embassy.” Witnesses told Bosnian television that the man urged pedestrians to move away, saying he was targeting only the embassy.
He wore a beard and was dressed in an outfit with short pants that reveal his ankles – typical for followers of the conservative Wahhabi branch of Islam.
One police officer guarding the building was wounded before police surrounded the gunman. After a 30-minute standoff, the sound of a single shot echoed and AP video showed the shooter slump to the ground.
Police arrested the wounded man – who one of Bosnia’s three presidents said is a foreigner – and took him away in an ambulance as pedestrians cowered behind buildings and vehicles. Hospital spokeswoman Biljana Jandric told the Associated Press the gunman had a minor wound to his leg.
State Prosecutor Dubravko Campara identified the shooter as Mevlid Jasarevic, from Novi Pazar, the administrative capital of the southern Serbian region of Sandzak, who was tried in Austria for robbery in 2005.
Campara said Jasarevic had crossed the Serbian border into Bosnia Friday morning. He said Jasarevic had two hand grenades with him when he was arrested and is also currently under investigation by Serbian police, but did not detail why.
Serbian Interior Minister Ivica Dacic confirmed his identity and said he is 23 years old. Bosnian TV said Jasarevic is a Wahhabi follower.
The Wahhabis are an extremely conservative branch which is rooted in Saudi Arabia and linked to religious militants in parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Western intelligence reports have alleged that the tense, impoverished area of Sandzak, along with Muslim-dominated regions in Bosnia, are rich ground for recruiting so-called “white al-Qaida” – Muslims with Western features who could easily blend into European or U.S. cities and carry out attacks.
The Islamic extremists joined Bosnia’s 1992-95 war for independence. They were largely tolerated by the U.S. and the West because of their opposition to late Serbia’s strongman Slobodan Milosevic’s quest to create “Greater Serbia” out of the former Yugoslav republics.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said several bullets struck the outside wall of the embassy, but that all embassy personnel were safe. She said the wounded police officer had been assigned to protect the embassy.
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