The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) has accused six Bosnian immigrants of attempting to send money and equipment to terrorists overseas, including to fighters with the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.
The federal indictment, made public on February 6, 2015, also charged two of them with conspiring to kill and maim people in a foreign country. The indictment alleges the conspiracy dates back to May 2013.
The "charges and arrests underscore our resolve to identify, thwart and hold accountable individuals within the United States who seek to provide material support to terrorists and terrorist operations operating in Syria and Iraq," said Assistant Attorney General John Carlin. "Preventing the provision of supplies, money and personnel to foreign terrorist organizations like ISIL remains a top priority."
The indictment "epitomizes the FBI's commitment to disrupting and holding accountable those who seek to provide material support to terrorists and terrorist organizations,” said Special Agent in Charge William Woods. “This case underscores the clear need for continued vigilance in rooting out those who seek to join or aid terrorist groups that threaten our national security.”
All six were living in the U.S. legally, in three different states - New York, Illinois and Missouri. Three had become naturalized citizens and the other three had either refugee or legal resident status. Five of them are in the U.S. and have been arrested. The sixth one is overseas, but according to some reports, he is believed to have been killed last year.
Money and military supplies
According to the indictment, the suspects sent multiple payments using PayPal, as well as U.S. military uniforms, combat boots, tactical clothing and gear, military surplus goods, firearms accessories, rifle scopes and first aid supplies to Turkey.
The supplies and money eventually made their way to fighters in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere. Money was also sent to family members.
The indictment said the defendants knew where the money and supplies were going. The indictment said members of the group used telephones and Facebook to send and receive messages, using fictitious names and code words including "Lions," "Bosnian brothers," "mujahids” and “shaheeds” (holy warriors and martyrs), and “the beach” for places in Iraq and Syria.
Those charged were Ramiz Zijad Hodzic, 40, his wife Sedina Unkic Hodzic, 35, and Armin Harcevic, 37, all of St. Louis County in Missouri; Nihad Rosic, 26, of Utica in New York; Mediha Medy Salkicevic, 34 and Jasminka Ramic, 42, of Schiller Park and Rockford in Illinois.
If convicted, the crimes of conspiring to provide material support and providing material support carry penalties ranging up to 15 years imprisonment for each count and/or fines up to $250,000. Ramiz Zijad Hodzic and Nihad Rosic also were charged with conspiring to kill and maim people in a foreign country, and face life in prison if convicted.
Mensur Hatic, Bosnian American community leader in St. Louis, Missouri, and owner of a radio/TV station in Bosnia, told VOA’s Bosnian Service that the Hodzic couple had been under FBI surveillance since 2013.
“He [Ramiz Zijad Hodzic] came to the U.S. 10 years ago, suffering from PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder]. He was a Bosnian soldier during the 1992-95 war in the town of Teslic, and was honored with Golden Lilies Medal for bravery. He drank a lot for several years after coming to the U.S., but in the past couple of years, he became sober, and covered his wife and his daughter with hijab (a veil that covers the head and chest). But we did not know that he was involved in this network of IS supporters.”
Hatic also said that three minor children of the couple, ranging from two to 17 years old, were currently being cared for by a friend, but if the parents are convicted and jailed, it is possible Social Services would take the children.
Dzeilana Pecanin contributed to this report.