SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina – Authorities in Bosnia launched what they called a major operation on Wednesday against several organized crime groups suspected of involvement in at least six murders, several major robberies, illegal money transfers and drug trafficking.
The State Prosecutor's office said in a statement that "several dozen people" were detained following scores of raids in different parts of the country.
Goran Zubac, the head of Bosnia's state security agency, said the operation was focusing on 43 suspects.
Local media said they include Kosovo-born Bosnian businessman Naser Kelmendi, who was blacklisted by the U.S. this year for allegedly running a major cocaine and heroin trafficking organization.
The media published photos of police searching a Sarajevo hotel belonging to Kelmendi family, but said Naser Kelmendi is not in Bosnia now. The authorities refused to confirm he was a suspect, saying the operation was just getting under way.
Zubac called it the country's largest-ever crackdown on organized crime and said local law enforcement agencies had received significant support in preparing it from neighboring Serbia.
He said the people targeted by the operation are, among other things, suspected of the 2007 slaying of Bosnian Muslim warlord Ramiz Delalic who had become a major figure in the country's criminal underworld following the 1992-95 Bosnian war.
"We already identified all members of this criminal network, we established what crimes they committed and how, and we also identified their cronies, including from within security and other government structures," in Bosnia, Zubac said, without elaborating.
Organized crime flourished in the Balkans during the wars of the 1990s, and the region is still believed to be a major transit route for smuggling of drugs and cigarettes into the European Union. However, Balkan countries striving to join the 27-nations block have recently stepped up their efforts to curb the organized crime.