Al Jazeera America’s Ryan Schuessler reports from the American city of St. Louis, home to a substantial Bosnian immigrant community.
St. Louis’ Bosnian community is reeling after the indictment of six Bosnian immigrants, three of them from the city, for allegedly sending money and military supplies to fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, including one from St. Louis.
“We are shocked by this,” said Murat Muratovic, who hosts a weekly Bosnian-language radio program in St. Louis. “We are just sad about it. That our people who survived the war and came here to seek a better future in life [could do this].”
Of the accused, Armin Harcevic and married couple Ramiz Hodzic and Sedina Hodzic lived in St. Louis County. Of the other three, Mehida Salkicevic and Jasminka Ramic lived in the Chicago area, and Nihad Rosic lived in Utica, New York.
They are accused of soliciting funds for and sending money and military supplies to fighters associated with radical groups, including Al-Qaeda, Jabhat Al-Nusra and ISIL. They are also accused of sending money to the families of fighters in Syria and Iraq who are from Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro.
The St. Louis area is home to the country’s largest Bosnian population — estimated at some 70,000 people, which makes it one of the largest Bosnian communities in the world outside the Balkans. The city is also home to many Muslim Kosovars who fled brutal ethnic cleansing campaigns during the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s and early 2000s.
Bosnians in St. Louis are largely credited with rebuilding dilapidated neighborhoods in southern St. Louis after they arrived. Many are now business owners, and the community makes up a vital part of the region’s economic and social fabric.