THE GLOBAL POLITICS

Alternative electronic magazine on globalization of world politics

Inside Kosovo’s Islamist Cauldron

guilty-ring-call-trade

Kacanik, KOSOVO – A plume of smoke hangs over our table in the corner of a dark, shabby café in this rugged town in southern Kosovo. The lanky 19-year-old sitting next to me is chain-smoking through half a pack of L&Ms, his hands trembling as he recalls how he joined one of the world’s most brutal militant Islamist groups.

Through his neatly trimmed beard, Adem, who asks me not to use his real name for fear of arrest, says he had never even left Kosovo. But two years ago, he found himself on the perilous and far-off Turkey-Syria border — a major entry point for foreigners seeking to join the ranks of Islamic State (IS).

He was taken by IS recruiters to a Turkish village, where he waited to be smuggled into a war zone. After a two-week training camp in the Syrian city of Raqqa, the de facto capital of the Syrian and Iraqi territory that the group calls its “caliphate,” he would be assigned to a fighting unit.

Hours before the recruiters were to sneak him across the border, however, Adem turned back and made his way home.

“I realized that what was going on in Syria had nothing to do with Islam,” says Adem, who keeps looking over his shoulder as if he might be found out at any moment by Kosovar authorities. He looks like any other teenager, in skinny jeans and a silver chain hanging over his T-shirt.

Kacanik lies in southern Kosovo’s Sharr Mountains, a pathway between central Europe and the southern Balkans since at least the Bronze Age.

Jihadist Capital Of The Balkans

The government estimates that more than 300 Kosovars have traveled to the Middle East to wage jihad, or Islamic holy war. That makes this predominately Muslim country of under 2 million people, which unilaterally declared its independence from Serbia in 2008, Europe’s biggest contributor per capita of IS foot soldiers.

Kacanik in particular has gained a reputation as the jihadist capital of the Balkans. In the past three years, at least 24 men from its population of 30,000 have left to fight for extremist groups like IS or Al-Qaeda in Syria and Iraq.

Adem’s own path toward radicalization began when he received a Facebook invitation to attend a sermon hosted by an imam from a nearby town. He says he was “curious” about Islam. For the next five months, Adem attended sermons and Koran classes at a makeshift mosque where he and other young men lived.

The sermons were organized by Rinia Islame (Islamic Youth in Albanian), an Islamic charity operating in Kacanik. It is one among dozens of secretive organizations funded by Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf states that promote an extreme version of Islam. The groups are accused of brainwashing youth and recruiting them for extremist causes abroad.

Adem says the sermons he attended were “very strict and harsh.” “They told us not to shake hands with women and don’t go to cafes or bars,” he says.

There are indeed mounting outward signs of Islamic fundamentalism in Kacanik, where it is no longer uncommon to see women in Islamic veils or men with untrimmed beards and calf-length trousers, none of which has much real tradition in the country.

As Adem tells it, the sermons worked their way up from Koran lessons, to the meaning of jihad, to the conflicts in Syria and Iraq.

“My family doesn’t practice religion very much,” says Adem, who lives with his parents and two sisters in a crammed flat in Kacanik. “Only my grandfather and I.”

He says his family picked up on signs that he was becoming radicalized. “They said that if I want to practice religion, I can do it — I can pray — but not become a radical.”

The sermons attended by Adem were given by Zeqirja Qazimi, a notorious imam who was jailed for 10 years on May 20 after he and six associates were convicted for fighting for IS militants in Syria from 2012 to 2014 and for trying to gather IS recruits.

“Imam Zekerija Qazimi came from Gjilan,” says Adem, referring to a town in eastern Kosovo. “He was telling us about jihad.”

Qazimi also posted a video on YouTube in which he said that the “blood of infidels is the best drink for us.” Local media reported that Qazimi was responsible for recruiting 11 Kosovar fighters to IS; three were said to have been killed in Syria.

When I ask whether Adem has been threatened since turning his back on the extremists who radicalized him, his answer belies the bloodthirsty reputation of a group that routinely kills captives en masse and is said to ruthlessly execute suspected traitors. “I’ve never felt danger,” he says. “It was my decision.”

The Middle Eastern-funded charities have penetrated poor, rural communities like Kacanik that have been neglected by the government and where unemployment is around 40 percent, making young men easy targets for indoctrination.

The Islamic charities often run schools, dormitories, and welfare programs. But they also push a hard-line agenda that appears to have gained at least a minor foothold in Kacanik.

Fertile Ground For Extremism

Adem believes the Arab-funded charities targeted poor families, and often single mothers. He says in exchange for attending the sermons, the charity would give students accommodations, expense money, and new clothes and shoes.

“There were many people who attended the sermons,” says Adem, who had just finished high school and was jobless when he started attending the classes. “There were people in poor economic conditions.”

“These charities were not registered and they worked with certain radical individuals and they have manipulated the poor,” says Kacanik Mayor Besim Ilazi.

Ilazi, a tall, balding man, points at derelict buildings and defunct factories at the foot of the green hills around Kacanik and adds, “The economy is the main reason why some people joined.”

Locals also point to the town’s proximity to Macedonia as one of the reasons Kacanik has become such a hotbed for radicalism. Macedonia is a short 30-minute drive away, and locals say hard-line ethnic Albanian preachers often visit Kosovar communities to deliver sermons.

Radical Charities Going Underground

In late 2014, Kosovar officials closed 14 charities — including the one that provided religious classes to Adem — when they were suspected of having ties to Islamic extremist groups. Under a new law, Kosovo can jail citizens for up to 15 years if they participate in foreign wars.

Kosovo authorities say around 50 homegrown jihadists have been killed in fighting in Syria and Iraq, and around 120 have returned to Kosovo. More than 100 people in Kosovo have been arrested or are under investigation for recruiting or fighting abroad on behalf of IS.

Ilazi insists the government crackdown has largely driven Kacanik’s radical fringe out of the town. But he also acknowledges that some extremists have simply gone underground and continue to operate in “private houses.”

Locals talk of cabins in the woods where the extremists hold meetings and sermons. One local points to a rocky hill in the distance. “Over there is where they meet at night,” he says, talking on condition of anonymity. “No one can go there because they have armed guards.”

“The radicals were allowed to operate freely for too long.”

Florim Neziraj, head of the Islamic Community of Kosovo in Kacanik

Recruits ‘Never Came Back’

Adem, sipping Turkish coffee from a tiny cup, says that several months after attending religious classes some of the young men “left and never came back,” referring to locals who went to Syria to fight.

“We were in a small place and we heard everything,” says Adem. “Yes, there were people who went to Syria. I saw them leave Kacanik.”

Florim Neziraj is the head of the local branch of the Islamic Community of Kosovo, the main officially sanctioned Islamic organization in the country. The young, ginger-haired imam has been leading efforts to prevent young men from joining radical Islamic groups.

“Those who have gone to Syria are often very young,” says Neziraj, who is wearing a tight navy suit and sporting a trimmed beard. “They come from the best families in Kacanik. You couldn’t say anything bad about them. We saw no signs of radicalization. They were manipulated and fell victim to certain individuals.”

Neziraj argues that blame must be apportioned to the government, which he says “neglected the problem” of radicalization. “The radicals were allowed to operate freely for too long,” he adds.

Kosovo has traditionally been a secular state with a liberal Muslim population, with bars on the same street as mosques. But less tolerant voices have flourished, including among the radical Islamic charities, which have thrived since arriving after the war ended in Kosovo in 1999.

Neziraj says many such charities came under the guise of “humanitarian organizations,” often building schools and hospitals. But he says these charities were often bent on “indoctrinating the youth.”

He fears it might be too late to tackle spreading radicalism.

IS Recruiter

One product of the radicalization in Kacanik is Lavdrim Muhaxheri, a 25-year-old IS recruiter who fights in Syria. He has been described as one of IS’s top leaders.

Last year, Muhaxheri sent shockwaves around Kosovo when he posted photos on Facebook of himself beheading a prisoner in Syria. Another post purportedly showed him executing a Syrian man with a rocket-propelled grenade.

Adem is reluctant to talk about Kacanik’s most notorious former resident, but admits he saw Muhaxheri attending the local mosque for prayers, saying he looked “normal.”

He says Muhaxheri’s path is a lesson for young men in Kacanik thinking of fighting in Syria.

“I live a normal life again, but I’m one of the lucky ones,” Adem tells me between cigarettes in the café, where he now works as a waiter. “Not everyone who takes the wrong path can find their way again.”

But for the older tombs, he said, “I think the bones should stay in their graves.”


June 2016

About the author:
Frud Bezhan is a Prague-based correspondent for RFE/RL
Source: RFE/RL
Join the debate on our Twitter Timeline!

Kosovo ISIL Ridvan Haqifi and Lavdrim Muhaxheri

RELATED POSTS
Europe Between Kosovization And Jihadization
Today the Old (dying out) Continent is under multi-faced crises pressure some of them having older roots but the others are product of current political decisions and moves by the European decision makers (and those who are behind them across the Ocean). The European oldest and mostly painful crisis-problem is a biological declination of the whole continent what from the economic point of view means, at least for the western countries, an import of a huge number of the „outsiders“ in order just to keep the same level of the economic production and national GDP. This solution of course produce as ...
READ MORE
Bosnia-Herzegovina ISIS In The 1990s: A Short Documentary Movie By The SKY News
Video documentary movie on the first ISIS in Europe in Islamic Caliphate of Bosnia-Herzegovina, 1992-1995. This movie is made by the British SKY NEWS after the civil war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Similar documentary movies on the ISIS Bosnia-Herzegovina made by the Bosnian Serbs were never shown to the western audience. Duration of the movie is 8 min. and 17 sec. In the movie are presented and future Al-Qaeda Mujahedeen holy fighters. From the movie is clear what was a real nature of the civil war in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the 1990s. All copyrights reserved by the SKY NEWS.
READ MORE
NATO’s illegal war against Serbia
Facts And Truth @ YouTube: “Remember why NATO spent 78-days bombing Yugoslavia in the spring of 1999? There was the ethnic cleansing. The atrocities. The refugees chased out of Kosovo by the Serb army. The mass graves. The heaps of bodies tossed into vats of sulphuric acid at the Trepca mines. NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said there were 100,000 Kosovo Albanian Muslims unaccounted for. Problem is, none of it happened.”   Forensic report throws doubt on US/NATO claims of Racak “massacre” By Richard Tyler wsws.org, 12 February 2001 A forthcoming article by three Finnish pathologists throws further doubts upon official descriptions of a “massacre” in ...
READ MORE
Kosovo: An evil little war
Six Years Later, Kosovo Still Wrong In the early hours of March 24, 1999, NATO began the bombing of what was then the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. For some reason, many in the targeted nation thought the name of the operation was “Merciful Angel.” In fact, the attack was code-named “Allied Force” – a cold, uninspired and perfectly descriptive moniker. For, however much NATO spokesmen and the cheerleading press spun, lied, and fabricated to show otherwise (unfortunately, with altogether too much success), there was nothing noble in NATO’s aims. It attacked Yugoslavia for the same reason then-Emperor Bill Clinton enjoyed a ...
READ MORE
The Ukraine Between Fascism, Ochlocracy and Breakup
There is less talk about the rump-Ukraine in the news these days, especially in the western corporate media, and there is a good reason for that: that short-lived Urkonazi “Banderastan” is falling apart. This is hardly surprising since the entire concept was never viable in the first place. Let’s remember how it all began. It is crucial to remember that there was no spontaneous revolution or insurrection in the Ukraine, the Euromaidan had nothing to do with Europe and everything to do with the USA. Oh sure, the Ukrainian people were told that it was about “joining the EU”, but that ...
READ MORE
Kosovo Serbs Are White Niggers Of Europe
The new Serbian Warsaw Ghetto in the occupied Serbian land of Kosovo In Kosovo, in 1999, NATO orchestrated KLA terrorism to cause a cycle of attacks and repression which was used to justify military intervention under the pretext of protecting the civilian population. Thirteen years down the line, Kosovo has unilaterally declared its independence and inflicts the most outrageous discrimination on its Serb population … under the auspices of NATO. Serbs may not have black skin, but they are being treated like white niggers of Europe. Every day. In the media. On the streets in Kosovo. The pogrom and ...
READ MORE
Kosovo: Key Dates In The Century Long Goal To Create Greater Albania
Key facts about Kosovo’s Islamic Albanian minority of Serbia and the century long drive by Islamic extremists to exterminate Kosovo Serbs from that region: 1389—Muslims defeat Christian Serb defenders in Kosovo, depopulate the area and invite mountain tribe of Albanians, in exchange for converting to Islam, to take over pillaged land from Serbs. 1594—Sinan Pasha, an ethnic Albanian, who was a commander in the Ottoman Turkish Empire, burned the relics of St. Sava at Vracar, Belgrade. St. Sava is the Saint that brought Serbs into Christianity. 1878—Albanian nationalist leaders meet in Prizren, known as the First League of Prizren, to announce the creation ...
READ MORE
Crucified Kosovo With Photo Albums
After Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo is a second ISIS in Europe today. From June 1999, when NATO troops occupied Kosovo and brought to power militant Muslim Albanian Jihad fighters, systematic destruction of (Serbian Orthodox) Christianity is visible on every corner. The most disappointed fact in post-war Kosovo reality is an ethnic and cultural cleansing of all non-Albanians and not-Albanian cultural heritage. The proofs are evident and visible on every corner of Kosovo territory. For instance, on the arrival of KFOR (international but in fact NATO „Kosovo Forces“) and UNMIK („United Nations Mission in Kosovo“) to Kosovo in 1999, all the names of the ...
READ MORE
The Memorandum (1804) By The Karlovci Metropolitan Stevan Stratimirovic
The goal of this article is to investigate and describe the text of one very significant, but so far forgotten, document and historical source upon the question on Serbian liberation from the Ottoman sway and national unification. The document was written in 1804 during the first months of the First Serbian Uprising against the Ottoman oppression [about the uprising see in Petrovich 1976; Vucinich 1982; Temperley 1969; Ђорђевић 1956]. Introduction The Serbian nation was divided at the dawn of the 19th century by the borders of Ottoman pashaliks and by the state frontiers that separated the lands under Ottoman from those under ...
READ MORE
Western Imperialism ‘Must Go’
For years now, the Western elite have been incessantly pushing the slogan that ‘Assad must go.’ Under the pretext of removing an ‘evil’ dictator and helping the people of Syria, the West has been funding, arming and training an array of Al-Qaeda affiliated legions to force regime change in the country. Contrary to helping the people of Syria however, this has only worked to bring pain, misery and tragedy to Syria. Even the former US Defense Secretary, Chuck Hagel, admitted that the insistence on ‘Assad must go’ has “paralyzed” any rationale Syrian strategy.  Whenever the West appears to have moved on ...
READ MORE
Pax Americana: Who Are the Neocon Imperialists?
Neocon 101: What do Neoconservatives Believe? “Neocons” believe that the United States should not be ashamed to use its unrivaled power – forcefully if necessary – to promote its values around the world. Some even speak of the need to cultivate a US empire. Neoconservatives believe modern threats facing the US can no longer be reliably contained and therefore must be prevented, sometimes through preemptive military action. Most neocons believe that the US has allowed dangers to gather by not spending enough on defense and not confronting threats aggressively enough. One such threat, they contend, was Saddam Hussein and his pursuit of ...
READ MORE
The Origin Of Jihadism
The origin of jihadism is prohibited from being reported truthfully — this truth is prohibited by all of the Establishment ‘press,’  including almost all ‘alternative news’ sites — in the West, because it challenges all of the “sensitive” buttons (all of the bigotries, to put the matter in plain terms); and, though this fact (the Establishment’s bigotries, and its hypocrisy to preserve and protect their bigotries even while condemning those of other people) will prevent almost all of the news-media that I send this to from publishing it, nothing prevents me from writing it; so, here it is (in whatever ...
READ MORE
Fallujah: A symbol of US war crimes
No city in Iraq is more symbolic of the criminal consequences of the US invasion of Iraq than Fallujah. Prior to 2003, the 300,000-strong, prosperous, predominantly Sunni Muslim community on the Euphrates River, one of humanity’s oldest continuous urban settlements, was known as the “city of mosques.” After 13 years of destruction at the hands of the US military and its client state in Baghdad, it is today a labyrinth of ruins, a city of the dead. Following weeks of air strikes by US, British and Australian bombers, a combination of Iraqi government forces and Shiite militias is reportedly on the ...
READ MORE
09.03.2001, Berlin, Berlin, Germany - Zoran Djindjic, serbischer Ministerpraesident der Bundesrepublik Jugoslawien. 00M112016CARO.JPG GT, Image: 141207614, License: Rights-managed, Restrictions: , Model Release: no, Credit line: Profimedia, Alamy
Odd as it may seem, October 5, 2000 was not the first time the Western powers engaged in “regime change” in Serbia. There are many similarities between the October 5 regime change and the Western involvement in putting the government of Josip Broz Tito and the Communist Party in charge of Yugoslavia in 1945. Just as Slobodan Milošević received faint praise from the West as “factor of peace and stability” in the Balkans, General Draža Mihailović was praised by the Western Allies during the war – yet support for both was limited mostly to words and empty propaganda gestures, and only so ...
READ MORE
“Responsibility To Protect” Was Not Valid In Kosovo And Isn’t Valid In Ukraine
The same arguments used to justify a western ‘humanitarian intervention’ in Kosovo in 1999 could be used to support a Russian intervention in Ukraine. This article originally appeared at Irrussianality Yesterday, I gave a talk on ‘The Folly of Military Intervention’ at McGill University. Afterwards, one of the students asked me a question about parallels between the wars in Kosovo in 1999 and Ukraine in 2014/15. As I answered, I found myself thinking about the scale of the humanitarian crises in both cases and what this means for supporters of so-called ‘humanitarian intervention’. In 1999, NATO aircraft bombed Yugoslavia for three months. The aim, ...
READ MORE
NATO’s Role In The Recruitment Of Islamic Terrorists
According to Israeli Intelligence News Source This article was first published in September 2014. Can we believe Hollande and Cameron? Evidence confirms that NATO is behind the recruitment of “jihadist terrorists  While NATO leaders in Newport Wales [September 2014] debate the Atlantic Alliance’s role “in containing a mounting militant threat in the Middle East”, it is worth recalling that in 2011 at the outset of the war in Syria,  NATO became actively involved in the recruitment of Islamic fighters. Reminiscent of the enlistment of the Mujahideen to wage the CIA’s jihad (holy war) in the heyday of the Soviet-Afghan war, NATO headquarters ...
READ MORE
International Injustice: The Conviction Of Radovan Karadzic
Last Thursday, news reports were largely devoted to the March 22 Brussels terror bombings and the US primary campaigns. And so little attention was paid to the verdict of the International Criminal Tribunal for (former) Yugoslavia (ICTY) finding Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic guilty of every crime it could come up with, including “genocide”.  It was a “ho-hum” bit of news.  Karadzic had already been convicted by the media of every possible crime, and nobody ever imagined that he would be declared innocent by the single-issue court set up in The Hague essentially to judge the Serb side in the ...
READ MORE
Kosovo History – Fifth Part
The series of long-scale Christian national movements in the Balkans, triggered off by 1804 Serbian revolution, decided more than in the earlier centuries, the fate of Serbs and made ethnic Albanians (about 70% of whom were Muslims) the main guardians of Turkish order in the European provinces of Ottoman Empire. At a time when the Eastern question was again being raised, particularly in the final quarter of 19th and the first decade of 20th century, Islamic Albanians were the chief instrument of Turkey’s policy in crushing the liberation movements of other Balkan states. After the congress of Berlin (1878) an ...
READ MORE
ISIS Is A US-Israeli Creation. Top Ten “Indications”
Makia Freeman is the editor of alternative news / independent media site The Freedom Articles and senior researcher at Tools For Freedom.com (FaceBook here), writing on many aspects of truth and freedom, from exposing aspects of the worldwide conspiracy to suggesting solutions for how humanity can create a new system of peace and abundance. ISIS is a US-Israeli creation, a fact as clear as the sky is blue. It’s a truth as black and white as the colors on their flag. For many alternative news readers, this may be patently obvious, but this article is written for the large majority of ...
READ MORE
Kosovo – Mafia – Fascism – Jihad
Hiding Genocide in Kosovo: A Crime against God and Humanity is not a typical book of the current events or international affairs genre. Nor is it a journalistic exposé. It is simply a book of stories, true stories of what has taken place in Kosovo since the end of the 1999 war: shooting, beheading, burning, bomb attack, maiming, rape, abduction, torture, desecration, theft, mutilation, and harassment. While Western policymakers (the U.S., EU, UN, NATO, OSCE, etc.) delude themselves that they are buying the goodwill of the Muslim world by the sacrifice of a small Christian community in Kosovo, the perpetrators ...
READ MORE
Europe Between Kosovization And Jihadization
Bosnia-Herzegovina ISIS In The 1990s: A Short Documentary Movie By The SKY News
NATO’s illegal war against Serbia
Kosovo: An evil little war
The Ukraine Between Fascism, Ochlocracy and Breakup
Kosovo Serbs Are White Niggers Of Europe
Kosovo: Key Dates In The Century Long Goal To Create Greater Albania
Crucified Kosovo With Photo Albums
The Memorandum (1804) By The Karlovci Metropolitan Stevan Stratimirovic
Western Imperialism ‘Must Go’
Pax Americana: Who Are the Neocon Imperialists?
The Origin Of Jihadism
Fallujah: A symbol of US war crimes
“Regime Change” in Serbia, 1945 and 2000
“Responsibility To Protect” Was Not Valid In Kosovo And Isn’t Valid In Ukraine
NATO’s Role In The Recruitment Of Islamic Terrorists
International Injustice: The Conviction Of Radovan Karadzic
Kosovo History – Fifth Part
ISIS Is A US-Israeli Creation. Top Ten “Indications”
Kosovo – Mafia – Fascism – Jihad
Share

Categories: Kosovo

Tags: , , , ,

www.global-politics.eu

  • EMAIL
  • FACEBOOK
  • TWITTER
  • SHARE
  • YOUTUBE
  • PINTEREST
  • LINKEDIN