Members of the Jewish extremist haredi cult Lev Tahor have allegedly been spotted in Bosnia and Herzegovina, having seemingly moved to the Balkan country before the end of 2021, Bosnian news outlets reported.
According to the Bosnian Service for Foreigner's Affairs, as cited by Bosnian outlet Klix.ba, there are 37 foreign nationals that seem to fit the profile of Lev Tahor members that currently live in country.
Specifically, they seem to be living on the property of Savo Vulića, a politician who is a member of the National Assembly of the Republic of Srpska, one of the two entities inside of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Many residents told Bosnian media that they were concerned about the presence of who they claim are the Lev Tahor members in the area. The sect, known by many as the Jewish Taliban, is an extremist branch of ultra-Orthodox Judaism that has engaged in many controversial practices. Its members are forced to live highly regimented and isolated lives away from secular society, sometimes without access to modern medicine and healthcare. The sect has also faced numerous accusations of child abduction, rape, child abuse and underage marriages.
The cult was known to have been based in Guatemala, though it was originally based in the US and Canada, and it has recently made efforts to emigrate elsewhere, specifically to Iran. However, now they can be found in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Local residents claim to have recognized these Jews as members of Lev Tahor after seeing specific individuals who had been photographed in November 2021 at Istanbul Airport and identified in media reports as members of the sect, according to outlet Katera News.
According to the Service for Foreigners' Affairs, the group is staying in the country with the right to a visa-free stay, which can last three months. However, some locals fear the group may try to claim political asylum, according to local media reports.
In addition, aside from not properly reporting their residence, no crimes were reportedly committed by the group during their stay.
Local mayor Marinko Božović contacted the Service for Foreigners' Affairs and the Srpka Interior Ministry regarding the issue, Bosnian media reported.
Reports indicated that Vulić said the alleged members of the sect would leave by mid-February.
Despite the allegations that these individuals are members of Lev Tahor, the East Sarajevo Police Department stated that they have no information that this is the case, according to local outlet Kurir.rs.
While it is unconfirmed if these individuals are indeed members of Lev Tahor, it would follow their recent trajectory. Since 2018, the group has tried to gain political asylum in Iran, but has faced difficulties in reaching there.
In November 2021, a group of Lev Tahor members were intercepted by Iraqi officials in the Kurdistan Region as they attempted to make their way to Iran and were deported to Turkey, which is where the photograph of the members was taken. After that, the members of the sect reportedly traveled to the nearby Balkan state of Romania.