Bosnia police arrest 11 Muslims for involvement in jihad in Syria and Iraq

Bosnia police arrest 11 suspected of involvement in Syria, Iraq wars,” Deutsche Welle, November 13, 2014:

Bosnian police have arrested 11 people suspected of fighting for Islamist militants in Syria or Iraq or otherwise supporting such groups. Five suspects arrested in a similar operation two months ago remain in custody.

Bosnia’s State Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA) said in a statement issued on Thursday that more than 100 police officers took part in the operation, dubbed “Damascus,” in five towns including the capital, Sarajevo.

“The detained are suspected of links with financing, organizing and recruiting Bosnian citizens to leave for Syria and Iraq and fight in armed conflicts there alongside radical terrorist groups and organizations,” the SIPA statement said.

SIPA added that the raids had also turned up evidence that some of the suspects had weapons or explosives.

This is the second such operation conducted by SIPA, following a similar operation two months ago in which 16 people were arrested. Of those, five remain in custody, including Bilal Bosnic, who is thought to be the one of the leading figures in the ultra-conservative Salafi movement in Bosnia….
Bosnia’s State Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA) said in a statement issued on Thursday that more than 100 police officers took part in the operation, dubbed “Damascus,” in five towns including the capital, Sarajevo.
“The detained are suspected of links with financing, organizing and recruiting Bosnian citizens to leave for Syria and Iraq and fight in armed conflicts there alongside radical terrorist groups and organizations,” the SIPA statement said.
SIPA added that the raids had also turned up evidence that some of the suspects had weapons or explosives.
This is the second such operation conducted by SIPA, following a similar operation two months ago in which 16 people were arrested. Of those, five remain in custody, including Bilal Bosnic, who is thought to be the one of the leading figures in the ultra-conservative Salafi movement in Bosnia.

Arrests under new legislation

The arrests in both operations were carried out under legislation passed back in April, which introduced jail terms of up to 10 years for people convicted of leaving the country to fight for Islamist militants or actively supporting such groups.
It is unclear exactly how many Bosnians have left the country to fight alongside “Islamic State” (IS) Syria or Iraq but some estimates put that number at around 150, with 50 having since returned and a further 20 having been killed.
While most Bosnian Muslims are either secular or practice a moderate form of Islam, there has been an increase in the number of radical Islamists since the country’s civil war.
Between 1992 and 1995 many came from abroad to fight alongside the Bosnian Muslims against the Serbs and Croats. While most are thought to have left after the war, some stayed on in the country.

(Reuters, AFP, AP)

Mission to combat organised crime dropped investigations of cases implicating senior Kosovan politicians, says study

Julian Borger, diplomatic editor
Thursday 6 November 2014

The Guardian

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/nov/06/eu-accused-over-kosovo-mission-failings

—-

The European Union’s €1bn flagship foreign mission to combat organised crime and corruption in Kosovo repeatedly shunned or dropped investigations of cases implicating senior Kosovan politicians, according to a new study of the mission’s six-year existence.

The findings have emerged as the EU rule of law mission, known as Eulex, is already under scrutiny for the alleged cover-up of corruption allegations within its own ranks.

The new EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, has promised to send an independent investigator to Kosovo after a whistleblower alleged that evidence of possible bribe-taking had been ignored for more than a year.

An analysis in a forthcoming book by Andrea Capussela, head of the economic unit in the international mission that supervised Kosovo after independence, suggests the current scandal is only a small part of much broader problems in the troubled mission.

Eulex was set up in late 2008, in the wake of Kosovo’s independence, to mentor and monitor its fledgling judicial system, but it has had extensive executive powers to investigate, prosecute and judge important cases involving war crimes, organised crime and corruption.

Capussela analysed the 15 significant cases in which Eulex had issued indictments, of which four led to convictions, an average of 2.5 indictments and one major conviction per year.

“Considering how widespread political corruption and organised crime are in Kosovo, these results are gravely inadequate,” Capussela said, arguing that the mission had “disregarded its mandate”.

In eight known cases, in which Capussela says there was “credible and well-documented evidence strongly suggesting that serious crimes had been committed”, Eulex issued no indictments or carried out no investigations at all.

He suggests there are likely to be many more unexplored cases which have left no official traces whatsoever. Eulex, for example, inherited 1,187 cases from the UN mission in pre-independence Kosovo, Unmik.

Of the 15 major cases where Eulex did issue indictments, Capussela argues that seven were forced on it by outside pressure. Either the mission became aware that its inaction was about to be exposed, or “after EU or international public opinion demanded an investigation”.

In three out of the four cases where convictions were achieved, they involved secondary figures. Higher-ranking figures linked to the same crimes were either not investigated or indicted, Capussela says in his book, State-building in Kosovo: Democracy, EU Interests and US Influence in the Balkans, due to be published in February.

“Eulex’s conduct in these 15 cases – the eight ignored ones and the seven opened under pressure – suggests that the mission tended not to prosecute high-level crime, and, when it had to, it sought not to indict or convict prominent figures,” he said.

“The passivity exhibited by Eulex has confirmed the apparent sacrosanctity of the elite instead, and it has reinforced what has aptly been called Kosovo’s “glass ceiling of accountability”. As a result, he said a number of indicators suggested that corruption and organised crime had actually worsened under Eulex’s tenure.

A senior Kosovan investigator agreed with Capussela’s conclusions. Speaking on condition of anonymity he said his investigations involving senior figures in government had repeatedly hit a dead end in the international institutions supposed to be bringing the rule of law to the country.

“There are people killing people and getting away with it because of Unmik and Eulex,” the he said. He added that Eulex’s performance was worse than Unmik’s, because its leadership had grown so close to the government of prime minister Hashim Thaci.

“The political elite and Eulex have fused. They are indivisible. The laws are just for poor people,” he said.

Capussela explains the failure to confront Kosovo’s leadership is in part because of a mismanagement of resources which left the mission short of prosecutors in critical areas. More fundamentally, he said Eulex was supposed to be two things at once: a political mission attempting to keep the peace and build better relations with Serbia, and a judicial mission, meant to lock criminals away.

“The management found it hard to antagonise the elite,” he said. “You can’t talk to a minister one day and send him to jail the next day.”

Capussela said he sent a manuscript of his analysis to Eulex for comment but received no response. But a spokeswoman for Eulex told the Guardian that while Capussela may have used his own criteria for what constituted an important case, “we believe that every case we have prosecuted is important, and especially so to the victims or their survivors”.

The spokeswoman said Eulex special prosecutors “work on the most serious cases – war crimes, terrorism, trafficking in persons, corruption, organised crime, etc. The mission has obtained 20 verdicts in the fields of organised crime, trafficking in human beings and trafficking in human organs and 43 verdicts in the field of anti-corruption, such as fraud, accepting or giving bribes, abusing official positions. We’ve obtained 30 verdicts in the field of war crimes, including several cases of conflict-related sexual violence.”

There is growing disillusion within Kosovo with Eulex’s performance. When the mission arrived, promising to go after the “big fish” in the nexus of organised crime and politics that had a stranglehold on Kosovo, it was met with euphoria. There was even a petition to have a street in central Pristina renamed in honour of its acting chief prosecutor. Last week, after cover-up allegations by the British Eulex prosecutor, Maria Bamieh, protesters from the opposition party Vetevendosje staged a demonstration outside Eulex HQ mocking its earlier promises, holding fishing rods with copies of €50 notes attached as “bait”.

“Eulex came here to build law and order and they got domesticated,” said Ilir Deda, a Vetevendosje MP.

“It is incredible they managed to fail in a society that was so pro-western, was so pro-democracy. But corruption has grown exponentially under the eye of Eulex. We have made so many steps backwards.”

Deda says he has long experience of western failure to curb corruption. He was an adviser in a pre-independence Kosovo government in 2004 when he became aware of corruption by senior officials in the prime minister’s office.

He took his concerns to the Unmik, but there was no investigation. Instead he was advised to leave the country for his own safety as his complaint had leaked.

He spent a year in Switzerland, frequently changing addresses because of threats. “It took me years to recover and get over the bitterness,” Deda said.

Soren Jessen-Petersen, who was head of Unmik in 2004-06, and made efforts to make it more aggressive in its approach to high-level crimes, said he constantly ran into resistance from western capitals seeking to protect their own partners and allies among Kosovo’s leaders.

He said he would get calls from senior western officials seeking to dissuade him from high-profile operations.

“In mid 2005, following months of investigation into suspicions of corruption and organised crime among the staff of a high level Kosovar politician, Unmik had engaged in careful planning together with K-For [the Nato force in Kosovo] for an early morning raid into the concerned offices to confiscate relevant documentation,” Jessen-Petersen recalled in an email to the Guardian.

“Just a few hours before the start of the operation I received a call from Nato that important member states had objected to the operation, deemed too risky, and that Nato therefore had to withdraw.

“We had no choice but to call off the operation since going ahead without the necessary security back-up was not an option. We pursued the investigation in other ways but we were never able to gather credible evidence to pursue the cases in court.”

Jessen-Petersen said that in the circumstances the claim that the operation was “too risky” was not credible.

The most complex and sensitive case facing the international community in Kosovo, involving war crimes against Serbs, including some alleged cases of executions of Serb soldiers so their organs could be removed and sold for transplant, was taken out of Eulex’s hands entirely. In 2011, because of concerns that witnesses were not being given sufficient protection by Eulex, the EU set up a special investigative taskforce based in Brussels.

The chief investigator, Clint Williamson announced in July that there was evidence to indict senior Kosovan politicians for crimes against humanity, including killings, abductions, sexual violence and other abuses of Serb and Roma minorities.

But indictments can only be issued once a special new court is established, probably in The Hague. That cannot happen without constitutional changes approved by Kosovo’s parliament, and that approval in turn has been held hostage to political deadlock following elections in June.

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5 people charged with fighting for ISIL

Tanjung

BELGRADE – The Serbian Organized Crime Prosecutor’s Office stated on Tuesday that it has raised an indictment against four persons from Novi Pazar and one from Belgrade on suspicion of partaking in armed operations of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

The indictment was raised as they were suspected of organizing and financing the mobilization of citizens from Serbia and other countries for terrorist training camps in Syria and battlefield, reads a statement by Special Prosecutor Miljko Radisavljevic.

After the investigation, the Prosecutor’s Office pressed charges against Abid Podbicanin, 35, Sead Plojovic, 31, Tefika Mujovic, 34, Izudin Crnovrsanin, 25, from Novi Pazar and Ferat Kasumovic, 25, from Belgrade, the statement reads.

They and a number of unidentified other persons are suspected of financing terrorism, and training and recruitment of perspective terrorists in Serbia and other countries early in 2013.

Podbicanin and Mujovic are believed to have established a connection with ISIL and al-Nusra Front in order to seize power in the Syrian Arab Republic by force.

Their goal was to use this territory as a base for terrorist attacks against Iraq, the Middle East, North Africa and South and Central Europe, including Serbia, so as to create the future global Islamic state – Caliphate.

It is also believed that Podbicanin, Mujovic, Plojovic and Crnovrsanin raised money in Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Austria, Germany and Luxembourg and financed the mobilization of citizens from Serbia and other countries for terrorist training camps in Syria and battlefield.

According to the indictment, they organized accommodation at the Furkan mosque in Novi Pazar for people from Serbia and abroad going to Syria to take part in the conflict there. This was done so those people could rest and gain any information they needed.
“In Istanbul, Mujovic funded and organized their transport from Turkey to terrorist training camps in northern Syria, while the accused Podbicanin organized their accommodation and military training from Syria’s city of Azaz,” the prosecutor said.

Kasumovic recruited one person to go to Syria and that individual later joined the ISIL and was killed.

According to the indictment, Podbicanin, Mujovic, Crnovrsanin and Kasumovic joined the military section of the ISIL in Syria and took part in armed operations, while Podbicanin commanded one such unit.

Mujovic is accused of publicly inciting to terrorism, because he made a series of posts on Facebook that glorify the ISIL and call for violence, killings and suicide attacks in southwest Serbia’s Raska region, Belgrade and Rome.

Plojovic, Crnovrsanin and Kasumovic have been in custody since early March and the court decided to extend that custody after the indictment was raised. Podbicanin and Mujovic are at large and a warrant will be issued for their arrest. It has been proposed that they should be tried in absentia.

Cossacks In Bosnia-Herzegovina

September 27, 2014. Bosnia media reports that Nikolai Djakonov, who commanded an armed Cossack unit during Russia’s takeover of Crimea earlier this year, was spotted in Republika Srpska, the Serbian entity of Bosnia, ahead of Cossack celebrations of Russian-Serb ties and the Oct. 12 general elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Reuters/Eduard Korniyenko
The appearance in Bosnia-Herzegovina of a Russian militia leader who helped Moscow annex Crimea has the tiny Balkan nation worried. Nikolai Djakonov, who earlier this year commanded an armed Cossack unit in Russia’s takeover of Ukraine’s Crimean territory, has arrived in the Serbian autonomous area of Bosnia known as Republika Srpska, according to the Guardian.

The putative reason for Kjakonov’s arrival in Srpska is to participate in a war re-enactment that commemorates the Russian-Serb alliance during World War I. The re-enactment comes shortly before the Oct. 12 general election in which Milorad Dodik, a pro-Russian Bosnian-Serb, is tipped to win re-election as president. Russians clad in traditional Cossack costumes appeared Thursday in Banja Luka, the largest city in Srpska with a population of about 200,000.

Djakonov’s presence at a pro-Russian display has raised concerns that this might be the start of a push toward splitting the Serbian territory away from tBosnia. Dodik has said numerous times he supports independence for Srpska, something that could re-open wounds from the 1992-95 war that cost 100,000 lives. Cossack units sided with the Serbs responsible for the mass killing of Bosnian Muslims during that conflict.

According to the Guardian, Dodik might be doing some grandstanding of his own.

“Dodik has no interest in an independent [Republika Srpska],” Sead Numanovic, a Sarajevo journalist, told the British paper. “Serbia has no interest and will not support it, Russia is far away.”

But journalist Slobodan Vaskovic told the Associated Press on Friday the Cossacks — who say they’re just artists — may have been brought into the country to cause trouble should Dodik lose the election.

Asim Mujkic, political analyst and professor at Sarajevo University, told Xinhua news agency earlier this week that he doesn’t expect any radical changes coming from the Oct. 12 elections. Bosnia-Herzegovina is led by three presidents representing three constituent peoples, Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/03/arrival-russian-cossacks-fears-bosnia

Arrival of Russian cossacks sparks fears in Bosnia

Cossack group led by man who commanded unit in Crimea is taking part in re-enactments a day before key election

The Guardian, Friday 3 October 2014 14.39 EDT

There is growing concern in Sarajevo over the arrival in the Serb-run half of Bosnia of a band of Russian cossacks, after it emerged that the group’s leader had commanded a cossack unit in Crimea.
According to Bosnian border authorities, 144 Russians have crossed into the country over the past week, and on Thursday some of them appeared in Banja Luka, the main town in Republika Srpska (RS – the Serb entity within the Bosnian state), dressed in traditional cossack costumes, complete with large black sheepskin hats. According to the Serb authorities, they had come to take part in a joint Russian-Serb commemoration of their alliance in the first world war. However, media reports in Sarajevo published photographs that appeared to show that the leader of the cossack troupe, Nikolai Djakonov, had led an armed cossack unit participating in the takeover of Crimea.

The arrival of the cossacks has come at a nervous time in Bosnian politics as the country approaches elections on 12 October. The RS leader, Milorad Dodik, has declared that if he wins he will declare the Serb territory’s independence from Bosnia, which would trigger an international crisis over the divided country, which fought a bloody war in 1992-95 costing the lives of 100,000 people. Russian volunteers, including self-styled cossacks, fought on the Serb side and were in Visegrad, on the river Drina, scene of mass killings of the local Muslim population, although there were no indictments issued against any of them by the subsequent war crimes tribunal in The Hague. One of the volunteers in Visegrad, a military intelligence officer known as Igor Girkin and Igor Strelkov, later became a leading figure in the separatist movement in eastern Ukraine. He has also taken part in re-enactments of first world war battles.

The first world war re-enactment in which Djakonov’s cossacks are due to participate is scheduled for 11 October, the day before the election, which Dodik is tipped to win.

However, few observers believe he will carry out his threat to declare Bosnian Serb independence, a threat he has made many times before.

“Dodik has no interest in an independent RS (if he truly believes in it). Serbia has no interest and will not support it, Russia is far away and it would be an end to the RS as we know it,” Sead Numanovic, a veteran Sarajevo journalist, said. “The bottom line, –even if there are a thousand cossacks, what is the point?”

Four days after the Bosnia vote, the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, is expected in Belgrade, in next-door Serbia, where he will watch a military parade.

Jihad in the Balkans: The Next Generation

By Gordon N. Bardos

 
A specter is haunting Europe—fear of the impact hundreds of European volunteers to the Syrian jihad might have on their home countries once they return. Perhaps nowhere is the potential danger of this Syrian blowback greater than in the Balkans. According to one estimate, Bosnia has provided more volunteers per capita for the Syrian jihad than any other country in Europe, and various reports suggest there are probably more than five hundred jihadis from southeastern Europe now in Syria.
While the Muslims of southeastern Europe remain the world’s most moderate Islamic populations, an estimated five to ten percent has become indoctrinated in the more extreme forms of Islam typical of places such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt. This is not an accident—the rise and growth of militant Islamism in southeastern Europe is the result of long-term efforts by extremists to radicalize local populations. Over the past several decades, the militant Islamist movement in southeastern Europe has created a sophisticated infrastructure consisting of local safe havens in isolated villages and in mosques controlled by radical clergy, along with a wide array of electronic and print media propagating news from various jihad fronts, relaying orders from al-Qaeda leaders, and attempting to convert impressionable young people to join their cause. All of this is funded by generous Middle Eastern donors and supported by small groups of local extremists who have infiltrated influential political, religious, and social institutions.

The origins of the militant Islamist movement in southeastern Europe can most directly be tied to the life and work of Bosnia’s late Islamist president, Alija Izetbegovic. In the late 1930s, Izetbegovic and a conspiratorial group of like-minded Islamist extremists formed an organization called the Mladi Muslimani (“Young Muslims”), a Balkan version of the Muslim Brotherhood whose goal, as Izetbegovic himself frequently noted, was the creation of a “great Muslim state,” or as one author has described it, an “Islamistan,” throughout the Balkans, northern Africa, and the Middle East. Toward this goal, the Mladi Muslimani swore an oath promising perseverance on their “path of jihad” and their “uncompromising struggle against everything non-Islamic.” Tellingly, the name of their underground journal was Mudzahid (“Holy Warrior”).
Yugoslavia’s disintegration in the 1990s opened the doors for a second generation of militant Islamists to establish itself in the region. Composed mostly of foreign transplants from Afghanistan and other jihadi fronts, it was even more extreme and dangerous than Izetbegovic’s original group. Mostly concentrated in a unit Izetbegovic formed in August 1992 named the Katibat al-Mujahideen, veterans of the Bosnian jihad in the 1990s included people such as Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, mastermind of the 9/11 attacks; Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, involved in the attack on the USS Cole; Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, involved in the August 1998 US embassy bombings in East Africa; Abu Hamza al-Masri, the spiritual father of the July 2005 London Underground bombings; and Zaki ur-Rehman Lakhvi, one of the participants in the November 2008 Mumbai bombings. Ali Hamad, a Bahraini-born al-Qaeda operative, has claimed that al-Qaeda figures would visit Bosnia with “state protection,” and both the US and Saudi Arabia accused the Izetbegovic regime of giving Bosnian passports to known terrorists.

Unfortunately, these people did not simply pack up and leave when the Dayton Peace Accords brought an end to the Bosnian War in December 1995. Instead, together with local extremist allies, an entire infrastructure supporting militant Islamist causes (and not infrequently outright terrorism itself) was created during the latter part of the decade, the consequences of which are still plaguing the region today.

Thus, in remote, isolated villages around the Balkans, militant Islamists have developed a network of extra-territorial, sharia-run enclaves that serve as recruiting stations for local converts and safe havens for jihadis from around the world. According to writer Janez Kovac, in the central Bosnian village of Bocinja Donja, for instance, inhabited by some six hundred people, extremists live “separate lives untroubled by local police, tax-collectors, or any other authorities. Outsiders never set foot in the small community.” Another Bosnian village, Gornja Maoca, is the headquarters of Bosnia’s main Wahhabi leader, Nusret Imamovic. Gornja Maoca has frequently been used as a way station for extremists joining jihads in Chechnya, Afghanistan, and Yemen. In October 2011, Mevlid Jasarevic, a Wahhabi from the Sandzak region, left the village with two other residents on the day he attacked the US Embassy in Sarajevo.

Throughout the western and southern Balkans, extremist-led mosques also serve as bases for militant Islamists. The Saudi-funded King Fahd Mosque and Cultural Center in Sarajevo, which the researcher Juan Carlo Antunez has called “the epicenter of the spreading of radical ideas” in Bosnia, for a number of years functioned autonomously under the direct supervision of the Saudi Embassy in Bosnia. The White Mosque in Sarajevo is the headquarters of Sulejman Bugari, a Kosovo Albanian–born imam whom the global intelligence firm Stratfor has described as a go-between for Albanian and Bosnian extremists. In Kosovo, the journalist Mohammad al-Arnaout has reported that the Makowitz mosque on the outskirts of Pristina and the Mitrovica mosque are recruiting militants to fight alongside Islamist groups in Syria. In Macedonia, Wahhabi extremists have been engaged in a struggle with the country’s official Islamic community to take control of Skopje’s Yahya Pasha, Sultan Murat, Hudaverdi, and Kjosekadi mosques.

Militant Islamists support their efforts in southeastern Europe through a network of “NGOs,” “charities,” and “humanitarian aid” organizations, often funded by known al-Qaeda financial donors. The CIA has estimated that one-third of the Bosnian NGOs operating worldwide have terrorist connections or employ people with terrorist links. In the aftermath of 9/11, a raid on such a “charity” in Sarajevo, the Saudi High Commission for Aid to Bosnia, according to the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, netted “maps of Washington, material for making false State Department identity cards, and anti-American manuals designed for children.”

Militant Islamists in the Balkans have developed an extensive array and network of print periodicals, bookstores, websites, and YouTube spots spreading religious intolerance, glorifications of violence, and anti-American, anti-Semitic, anti-democratic messages. Islamic bookstores from Belgrade to Novi Pazar distribute tracts by extremists such as the contemporary Islamist ideologue Yusuf al-Qaradawi and the mid-century Marx of Islamism Sayyid Qutb. Militant Islamist websites promote jihad, suicide bombings, and the killing of non-Muslims. These websites also relay news from other jihadi fronts, sermons by extremist preachers from the Middle East, and messages from al-Qaeda leaders. For instance, the Bosnian website Put Vjernika (“Way of the Believer”) recently carried “A New Order from Zawahiri: Focus on Attacks on American Interests.”

According to Fahrudin Kladicanin, the co-author of a recent study on Balkan extremists’ use of the Internet and social media, “the number of those who are ‘liking,’ making comments, and sharing the content of these pages, especially when it comes to religious leaders, extreme Islamists, and Wahhabists, is rising on a daily basis.” The Facebook page “Krenaria Islame” (Albanian for “Islamic Pride”), which posts pictures and stories of Albanians fighting in Syria, has twenty-five hundred followers. According to Arjan Dyrmishi, a security expert based in Tirana, the Albanian capital, “if all the followers of this page were identified as terrorists, they would make a small army and pose a major problem. Such a large number of followers would pose a concern, even if these people were to be identified only as supporters of political Islam.”

The ideology spread through the militant Islamists’ media routinely involves the vilest forms of hate speech and intolerance. A Wahhabi leader from Bosnia, Bilal Bosnic, recently gave a sermon in which he claimed, “We have to love the one who loves Allah, and hate the one who hates Allah. We have to hate infidels, even if they are our neighbors or live in our homes.” Grade-school textbooks for Islamic religious classes in Bosnia now include the following: “Today Islamic countries are confronted with a form of blackmail: thus, if they want to join the United Nations, they have to tacitly renounce jihad as an organized form of Muslim interest.”

Misogyny and homophobia are prominent elements of the militant Islamists’ ideology. In Kosovo, the mufti of Prizren, Irfan Salihu, publicly claimed in a recent sermon, “Any woman who has intimate acts without being married according to provisions of the Islam [sic] is a slut and a bitch.” Glorifications of violence and support for suicide terrorism are frequent tropes of militant Islamists in the Balkans. For instance, Bosnic, the Bosnian Wahhabi leader, has posted a song on YouTube in which he sings:

The beautiful jihad has risen over Bosnia
And the Bosnian started calling “Allah Akbar” and praying
America had better know I am performing dawah
God willing, it will be destroyed to its foundations
If you try to harm the mujahedin once more, oh infidels,
Our Taliban brothers will come from all over,
And they will sentence you with their swords.
America and all the other tyrants had better know
That all the Muslims are now like the Taliban,
Jihad, Jihad, oh Allah, will be the redemption of the believers.
Allah Akbar. Allah is my Lord.
Listen, all my brothers, believers from all the world,
With explosives on our chests we pave the way to Paradise.
This unending din of propaganda is having an effect on a new generation. Over the past decade, militant Islamists indigenous to the Balkans have been involved in numerous actions and conspiracies: the October 2002 attack on the US Embassy in Vienna, the May 2007 Fort Dix bomb plot, the July 2009 Raleigh Group conspiracy, the 2009 New York City subway attack conspiracy, the October 2011 attack on the US Embassy in Sarajevo, a January 2012 plot to bomb nightclubs in Tampa, and the murder of two US servicemen at Frankfurt Airport in February 2012. Most recently, a young man from Kosovo became “the Balkans’ first suicide bomber,” killing fifty people in an attack in Baghdad in March 2014.

According to Bulgaria’s former chief mufti, Nedim Gendzhev, militant Islamists in southeastern Europe are trying to create a “fundamentalist triangle” formed by Bosnia, Macedonia, and Bulgaria’s western Rhodope Mountains. Although their chances of succeeding are minimal, they can nevertheless still do tremendous damage to Western security interests in the region, and to the possibilities for creating stable democratic societies in southeastern Europe.
With a new generation of Balkan Muslim clerics increasingly being educated in places such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and hundreds of millions of dollars being invested by Middle Eastern donors to build Islamic schools and madrassas in the Balkans, the distinction between the more moderate form of Islam traditionally practiced in southeastern Europe and the more extreme and violent forms practiced further to the east is becoming less apparent. As Esad Hecimovic, a leading expert on the Bosnian jihadi movement, has noted, “There is now a new generation of Islamic preachers in Bosnia who were educated after the war at Islamic universities in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, and other countries.?.?.?.?Thus, it is no longer possible to distinguish between ‘imported’ and ‘local’ versions of Islam in Bosnia and Herzegovina anymore.”

Unfortunately, the international response to militant Islam’s rise in southeastern Europe has ranged from neglect to outright denial. For instance, after 9/11, the then high representative in Bosnia, Wolfgang Petritsch, somewhat incredibly claimed in a New York Times op-ed that “no evidence has been produced that [Bosnia] has served as a base for al-Qaeda,” while the current high representative in Bosnia, Valentin Inzko, for his part, has similarly argued that the Wahhabis in Bosnia “pose no danger to Europe.” Yet as Evan Kohlmann, a leading specialist on al-Qaeda’s campaign in Bosnia, has put it, individuals who deny that al-Qaeda is operating in the Balkans “are either lying or have no idea what they are talking about.”

Militant Balkan Islamists are not even bothering to hide their long-term intentions. As a Bosnian jihadi fighting in Syria recently noted, “I left Bosnia with the intention only to return with weapons in my hand. I am a part of the revolution and this is the morning of Islam?.?.?.?[by allowing us to leave Bosnia] your intelligence agencies made a mistake thinking that they would be rid of us, however, the problem for them will be the return of individuals trained for war.”

 

 

Kosovo ‘imams held’ in raids on Islamic State recruitment

BBC
September 17, 2014

 

Fifteen people have been detained in Kosovo in an operation aimed at tackling recruitment of fighters for Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq.
Among them are several imams, including the head of Pristina’s Grand Mosque, Shefqet Krasniqi, local reports say.
Some 200 Kosovo Albanians have gone to fight in Syria and several have died.
IS is thought to have attracted hundreds of European recruits in its campaign to set up a “caliphate” in broad swathes of Syria and Iraq.
Imam of Pristina’s Grand Mosque, Shefqet Krasniqi is one of Kosovo’s leading clerics
Kosovo police did not name those arrested, publishing only their initials, but said the operation had been carried out following threats and due to the importance of national security.
Many of those held were from Pristina, Prizren or the flashpoint town of Mitrovica.
Islamist leader Fuad Raqimi was detained after a raid on his flat, reports said.
US envoy Tracey Jacobson, in a tweet, praised Kosovo’s “pro-active response against fighters and terrorism”.
Last month, 40 people were arrested as police searched dozens of sites across Kosovo, including makeshift mosques thought to have been used as recruitment centres.
In common with other European governments, Kosovo is tightening up its laws to tackle the rise in jihadists travelling to the Middle East.
Germany announced on Friday that it would seek to prosecute anyone who tried to recruit for IS or spread the group’s propaganda.
French MPs on Tuesday backed a new anti-terror bill that would enable the passports of potential jihadists to be confiscated.
Six people were detained in the Lyon area of France on Wednesday, including a 13-year-old girl, on suspicion of playing a part in sending young girls to Syria.