When analyzing the links between Isis and countries like Italy and Austria one evident common denominator that emerges is the so called “Balkanic connection”, which means that in both these countries a conspicuous role on jihadist propaganda and recruitment is covered by radical networks runt by individuals from the Balkans, especially Bosnia-Herzegovina.
In some way we could draw a parallel with the “Milan-Vienna-Sarajevo” triangle that became well-known in the 90’s during the civil war in Bosnia, when hundreds of foreign fighters, mainly from Arab countries, who joined the Mujahid unit, found financial and logistical support in the two European cities on their way to fight in Bosnia.
Milan has a smaller Bosnian community if compared to Austria, but the Italian city, often considered the “Italian laboratory of Islam”, had a major role through the “Centro Culturale Islamico” of viale Jenner, which was mainly managed by Egyptians with links to the Gamaa al-Islamiya and became a center for recruitment of militants willing to fight in Bosnia. Shaykh Anwar Shaban, imam in viale Jenner, became a major reference point for the Bosnian mujahideen of the “El Mujahid unit” and was killed near Zepce by the Croatian HVO the same day that the peace accord was signed ending the Bosnian war.
Today the dynamics have changed: the conflict is now in Syria and Iraq, the networks are still active in recruiting foreign fighters but this time they are mainly managed by Balkanic elements that were radicalized in the years following the Dayton Agreements (1995). This is partially due to the infiltration of extremist fighters who remained in Bosnia after the end of the war and founded Salafi communities where they were free to preach their radical ideology and the results are clear: Jusuf Barcic, Nusret Imamovic, Bilal Bosnic, Misrad Omerovic (Ebu Tejma), Fadil Porca, just to name a few.
Jusuf Barcic founded the first Salafi community in Bocinje and it was mainly composed by former “El Mujahid” unit members. Nusret Imamovic can be considered his successor and became well-known for an attack conducted with six fellow Salafis against Mihajlo Kisic, in Brcko, in 2006. Imamovic has been arrested twice, once in 2010 when Gornja Maoca was raided by the Bosnian authorities and in 2012 in connection with the October 2011 attack on the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo by Mevlid Jasarevic.
Relatives of Bosnians who went to fight in Syria claim that Nusret Imamovic was their recruiter. Although Imamovic refused to be interviewed about such allegations.
Muhamed Fadil Porca, imam at the Tewhid Center in Vienna, is said to have contacts with Imamovic and according to members of the Bosnian Islamic community he organizes trips to the” Bosnian Salafi enclaves” for Muslims from Germany and Austria. 
Bilal Bosnic, well-known in the Gornja Maoca area, is probably the most notorious and was arrested by Sipa with 15 of his followers at the beginning of September. In the last 10 years Bosnic increased his activity abroad, focusing on countries like Belgium, Austria and Italy, where he travelled on several occasions since 2011, in Pordenone, Cremona and Siena, in some cases with his collegue Idriz Bilibani.
In the summer of 2014 Bosnic appeared in a photo with some of his followers in front of an Isis flag and during an interview with an Italian newspaper he claimed support for Isis. In the meantime Italian authorities were investigating his potential role in recruiting Ismar Mesinovic and Munifer Karamaleski, two Balkanic individuals who left Italy to go fight in Syria at the end of 2013. Mesinovic was killed in January 2014 while the whereabouts of Karamaleski are still unknown.
Bosnic might have been part of the Balkanic network that was in charge of recruiting fighters for Syria and Iraq. He himself claimed to have met Mesinovic on one occasion, presumably in June 2013 near Pordenone and to support his decision to fight for jihad.
According to sources there could be at least two Balkanic recruiting networks in Italy, one managed by Albanians through the port of Durres and another one managed by Bosnians and Kosovaris.
Misrad Omerovic, better known as Ebu Tejma, also resides in Vienna as Porca and caught the attention of Austrian authorities when relatives of two Austrian/Bosnian girls who left for Syria claimed that the two had attended Ebu Tejma’s mosque before disappearing.
Samra Kesinovic, 16, and Sabina Selimovic, 15, vanished from their homes in Vienna on April 10 and later appeared in photos wearing veils, brandishing Kalashnikov, surrounded by armed men.
In mid-September two other girls aged 14 and 16 were arrested by Austrian police while trying to leave the country to go fight in Syria and investigators are now trying to understand how they were radicalized.
In conclusion we can see how in the mid 90’s Arab recruiting networks were looking for foreign fighters, mainly former mujahideen from Arab countries, volunteering to fight in Bosnia on the Muslim side, after the Dayton Agreements of 1995 many of these mujahideen remained in Bosnia and managed, throughout time, to create small enclaves were a minority of local Muslims were radicalized. Even though statistics show that the number of radicalized elements is quite small if compared to the total Bosnian population it is also true that these networks managed to spread (thanks to the internet and to funds from Ongs and charities as well), going beyond borders and finding supporters in nearby countries with relevant Balkanic diaspora such as Italy and Austria.
Today many of the ideologists and recruiters are originally from the Balkans and they are not as selective as their predecessors in the 90’s, they recruit anybody who is willing to go fight, including teenage girls.
Giovanni Giacalone is an Italian researcher and analyst in Islamic radicalism, lives in Milan where he studies political Islam in Europe with a close look at issues linked to integration, radicalism and relations between the various European Institutions and the Islamic organizations present in Europe.He wrote this article in English for RIMSE.