The leadership of the Islamic Community in Bosnia and Herzegovina stated on Wednesday that only it had the authority to organise the religious life of local Muslims and that it would not allow any parallel Muslim communities in the country or activities of self-styled imams, noting that the illegal communities were defying its order to be dissolved.

The Islamic Community's main body, called the Riyasat, said in a statement that activities were under way to integrate "alternative groups" into the official structures of the Community in line with Bosnian legislation on religious liberties and communities.

On Monday, the Leadership stated it had taken action to ban parallel Muslim communities and self-styled imams in the country and that it had sent a binding letter to all chief imams in the country to talk by the end of this month with organisers and leaders of illegal jamias and warn them that their activity is harmful to Islam and Muslims in BiH. In the Islamic community, a jamia is the equivalent of a parish.

Mufti Hasan Makic told media in the northwestern town of Bihac on Wednesday that all the self-styled imams who had been contacted to date had refused to cease their illegal activities and dissolve their illegal communities.

"Our duty has been to call on them to dissolve their communities on their own. If they disobey, it is then up to the state authorities to decide how to shut them down," Mufti Makic told the Dnevni Avaz daily.

An estimated 64 illegal Islamic communities are active in Bosnia and are regarded as hotbeds of radicalism and extremism.

Bosnian security services suspect that these isolated communities are being used to recruit terrorists.

The Riyasat distanced itself from these communities, explaining that it has no insight into what is going on there and cannot be held responsible for their activities.

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