When the Bosnian cluster was indicted in February 2015 and subsequently prosecuted in federal court, the U.S. government divulged a raft of evidence from social media, web forums, and email, which exposed six members of the Bosnian-American community, a majority-Muslim immigrant group that most people—rightly, for the most part—don’t typically think of as connected to ISIS. The allegations also revealed one Bosnian-American man’s journey from possible anti-Muslim combatant to American citizen to ISIS commander.
To uncover Abdullah Ramo Pazara’s story, we spent months tracking down the fragments of Pazara’s life from around the world—U.S. federal court documents in the Eastern District of Missouri, reports of military records from a Serbian nationalist paramilitary formation, truckers’ licenses from the state of Michigan, media accounts, Facebook posts from a villa in Azaz, Syria. Our reconstruction shows an upbringing shattered by civil war and violence in Bosnia, followed by a failed transition to civilian life in the United States. And then, Pazara found a network of like-minded individuals and friends—people who allegedly backed his growing fanaticism and then his ascent into the innermost circles of the Islamic State in Syria.
This is the story of Abdullah Ramo Pazara’s path to radicalization, and the six U.S.-based Bosnians charged with supporting his violent jihad.