6 Bosnian immigrants indicted in alleged overseas terror financing ring
Syria and Iraq were known as “the beach.”
Weapons and violent activities were called “actions.”
Fellow supporters were “Bosnian Brothers” and “Lions.”
These code names are described in the indictment for six Bosnian immigrants who are now charged with sending money and supplies to terrorists in Syria and Iraq, according to federal court documents unsealed Friday. Five have been arrested, the Department of Justice said. A sixth remains at large.
The indictment also gives some details of how the government says a secret network operated.
One name that comes up repeatedly in the document, but is not among the indicted, is that of Abdullah Ramo Pazara, a Bosnian native who also went by three other names. Pazara became a naturalized citizen of the U.S. and lived in St. Louis, Mo., for a time before leaving the country in May 2013.
From Missouri, he traveled to Zagreb, Croatia, and then Bosnia and Herzegovina. By July 2013, the indictment says, he arrived in Syria to serve as a foreign fighter with militant groups like Al Qaeda and Islamic State.
For the next year, authorities allege, the six indicted individuals collected money, sometimes contributing their own, to send to Pazara and other fighters in terrorist organizations. The money was usually sent through Western Union or PayPal, with the occasional wire transfer, but always through a middleman of sorts — Ramiz Zijad Hodzic or his wife, Sedina Unkic Hodzic.
Ramiz Zijad Hodzic, 40, and his wife, 35, were Bosnian immigrants who lived in St. Louis. The first transfer, according to court documents, was in August 2013, when Mediha Medy Salkicevic, 34, of Schiller Park, Ill., transferred $1,500 via PayPal to Ramiz Zijad Hodzic.
Officials say that over the course of 13 months, the Hodzics collected money from Salkicevic; Jasminka Ramic, 42, of Rockford, Ill.; Armin Harcevic, 37, of St. Louis; and Nihad Rosic, 26, of Utica, N.Y.
The amounts varied. A transfer could be as high as $1,850 or as low as $150. But one thing never varied, according to the court documents: The money sent to the Hodzics was intended for Pazara and other militants.
The six have been charged with one count of providing material support to terrorists and one count
of conspiracy to do so. Three of them — the Hodzics and Rosic — also face a charge
of conspiring to kill and maim people in a foreign country.
All face a maximum of 15 years in prison for each count and fines up to $250,000, prosecutors say. The three defendants facing the extra charge could face life in prison.
All were either naturalized citizens or living in the country legally.
Authorities say the six communicated via phone but also used Facebook to send messages, “like” each other’s posts and view photos and videos.
Early on, in August 2013, Ramiz Zijad Hodzic bought about $538 worth of U.S. military uniforms, tactical clothes and gear, combat boots, military surplus supplies and other items from businesses in St. Louis, the indictment says. He shipped three boxes full of these supplies through the U.S. Postal Service bound for Istanbul, Turkey, where they were given to Pazara and others fighting in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere.
Two months later, Ramiz Zijad Hodzic made another purchase of supplies, this one worth about $1,913, according to court documents. But in addition to the clothing and shoes, these shipments also contained firearms accessories, rifle scopes, optical equipment and range finders.
The indictment describes what it says was an exchange between Ramiz Zijad Hodzic and Salkicevic, though it does not explain whether the communication was monitored over the Internet or a phone:
Hodzic told Salkicevic he would send her pictures of the packages as soon as they reached the Middle East. Salkicevic then got a photo showing two long rifle scopes, which Hodzic said would go on a sniper rifle. Salkicevic said she hoped they would reach “them,” and that they would be put to “good use,” according to the court documents.
In April, Hodzic told another defendant, Rosic, that “five good snipers could do wonders in Syria,” according to court documents. Hodzic said he had been watching a video of a beheading.
That same month, the two men had a second exchange, in which Hodzic told Rosic that he wouldn’t need to get uniforms, boots, belts, jackets or shirts if he went to Syria because Hodzic had everything ready.
The indictment says that Hodzic did recommend that Rosic get a night-vision optic with a built-in camera
for $540, so that when he “killed a person, he could record it.”
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