As Kosovo tries to stop its sons from going off to fight in Iraq and Syria, sympathy for their cause remains strong among some hardline Muslims.
The calls stopped coming more than three months ago.
Even while fighting in Iraq and Syria for the militants of Islamic State, Musli Musliu still checked in with his family regularly. He used to post photos on Facebook, showing a beaming young man posing with his comrades. One even shows him in a sweet shop.
It was during one of those calls, in April, that he broke the news that his brother, Valon, had been killed. The two had been fighting alongside each other in Iraq when Valon died. Musli said he had buried him there, too.
Musli has since gone silent, leaving his family to wonder he has shared the same fate as his Valon.
Their brother, Selman, speaks softly when he talks about Musli and Valon outside the family home in the village of Tushile, 50 kilometers west of Prishtina. Selman says their mother is taking it hardest. “She’s suffering a lot with the loss of Valon,” Selman said.
Both Musli and Valon had embraced a strict form of Islam. Valon had gone to a Medressa and had chosen to fight to “protect the word of God,” said another brother, Muhamet, expressing pride in his siblings.
Some 150 Kosovars have gone to fight in Syria and Iraq, primarily for Islamic State, or for the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front, according to the Kosovo Intelligence Agency. Around 40 have died in what has become an increasingly dangerous war, with a US-led coalition of countries now attacking both groups via air strikes.
Meanwhile, Kosovo itself is becoming more hostile to those who have fought in Syria and Iraq, or who plan to. Police have arrested dozens of people in recent weeks, including imams and others accused of helping recruit fighters.
This week, President Atifete Jahjaga appeared on Fox News Channel in the US, declaring: “We are taking this threat very seriously and our security mechanisms are working around the clock to address this challenge.”
Kosovars make up only a tiny portion of the thousands of foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq, far outnumbered by those coming from Western European countries, including Belgium, the UK and France. They have nevertheless become a national embarrassment for a Muslim-majority country that wants to present itself as a secular, progressive European democracy.
A particular source of embarrassment is the leader of the Albanian fighters, Lavdrim Muhaxheri, who this summer posted photographs on Facebook, appearing to show him beheading a captive, with a message encouraging others to come join the fight. It followed a video showing him delivering a firebrand speech in Arabic and tearing up his Kosovo passport.
As outrage has grown across the world at the sheer brutality of Islamic State’s campaign to establish a so-called caliphate in Syria and Iraq, it has only hardened the resolve of the Kosovo authorities, and of mainstream leaders in the Muslim community. “This is the right moment,” an official in the Kosovo Intelligence Agency, said, referring to the official crackdown.
Fighters coming for years
Since the civil war there erupted in 2011, it has been remarkably easy for people to travel from Kosovo to join the fight. In November 2012, Naman Demoll became the first Kosovar to die in the Syrian civil war.
The intelligence official noted that it is cheap – requiring only about 100 euros to get from Kosovo to the war zone, with a flight to Istanbul and then a bus to the Syrian border.
The same official says the practice was long largely ignored because no special law exists barring such activities. Until recently, the Turkish authorities also did little to stop would-be fighters from entering Turkey.
The official said there had been multiple cases of Turkish authorities letting Kosovars into the country after being provided with intelligence of their intention to fight in Syria or Iraq.
As for fighters who have returned to Kosovo, the official said most of them have returned to a quiet life. But a small number have come back further radicalized, complete with combat experience and a new disdain for the state.
The official said they have disrupted three terrorist plots involving former fighters already. With a series of high profile arrests in September and August, the official says the members of two terror cells are now in custody, with a third potential cell remaining in Syria or Iraq.
The same official said he believes about 30 Kosovars are still fighting for Islamic State or Al-Nursa. But, with the authorities now arresting and prosecuting fighters, the official says it is unlikely any of them will return to Kosovo. Those remaining have effectively bought themselves a “one-way ticket,” the official said.
The town of Kacanik, near the Macedonian border, is known in Kosovo’s history as a place that put up stiff resistance to the Ottoman Empire – which brought Islam to Kosovo and ruled the Balkans for nearly 500 years.
These days, however, it is known as a centre of radical Islam and as the hometown of a large number men fighting in Syria and Iraq. Among them is their purported leader, Muhaxheri.
On a recent Friday, at afternoon prayers, few were willing to discuss those fighting in Syria or Iraq. But a young man, who refused to give his name, expressed openness to fighting for Islamic State.
“I would seriously think of going there if someone invited me,” he said. The young man says he has practiced Islam strictly for the past year-and-a-half and feels an affinity for Islamic State because “my heart feels for Sharia Law… My brother, I think ISIS is Allah’s will,” he continued.
The same man also drew parallels with the 1998-99 conflict, in which the Kosovo Liberation Army took on Yugoslav and Serbian forces. He says there is a similar imperative today to go to fight in the Middle East.
Mentor, a middle-aged man in Kacanik, agreed, comparing the intervention of NATO forces in Kosovo to Kosovars fighting in Syria in Iraq.
“When foreigners came to help us in Kosovo, no one complained at that time,” he said. “Now the Kosovars are doing the same thing. They are going to help liberate a people,” he said.
The Kosovo intelligence official agreed that the legacy of the war is one factor driving young Kosovars to fight abroad today.
“Most were very young when the Kosovo war happened. They want to try war – and feel it,” the official said, adding, however, that, based on the Intelligence Agency’s interviews, many come away disappointed.
For years, the leader of Kosovo’s Islamic Community, Naim Ternava, has drawn accusations of turning a blind eye to rise of extremism in the country’s mosques. Since the end of the war, strict forms of Islam, imported from and funded by the Middle East, have proliferated.
While the hardliners remain a minority among Kosovo’s Muslims, they have nevertheless become a visible and vocal presence. One of those arrested by police in September was Shefqet Krasniqi, the imam of the Grand Mosque, the largest in Prishtina.
In the wake of the arrests, however, Ternava has sharpened his rhetoric against the hardliners.
In a recent interview on Klan Kosova, Ternava warned of the rise of hardline Islam, brought in by people from outside Kosovo, “who have sown a sort of a seed of trouble.
“Now, that seed has somewhat grown up and is present. For instance, we have people who say the Kosovo Mufti is a nonbeliever because he does not grow beard,” he said. “This is not in line with real Islam; there are individuals who want to interpret Islam in very narrow terms, and to misinterpret Islam,” he added.
Skender Perteshi, of the Kosovar Center for Security Studies, blames a bad economy and a poor education system, as well as radicalised Islam, for creating the conditions that have sent Kosovars off to fight in Syria and Iraq.
He said recent police actions are encouraging. “It sends a message that the state is capable of coping with all the threats against the state, including terrorism,” he said.
It remains to be seen, however, if the crackdown stems the flow of fighters in the long term.
Muhamet Musliu remains proud of two of his brothers who went to fight in Iraq and Syria, even with one dead and another missing.
“They went to fight for Allah, to defend the words of Allah,” he said. “I wish I could go there but the moment of destiny has not come yet.”
Originally published on 2014-09-26
Authors: Nektar Zogjani, Petrit Collaku and Nate Tabak
Source: Balkan Insight
Origins of images: Facebook, Twitter, Wikimedia, Wikipedia, Flickr, Google, Imageinjection & Pinterest.
Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement!
Donate to Support Us
We would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising and rely only on you, our readers, to keep us digging the truth on history, global politics and international relations.
Waffen SS troops in the Albanian Battalion of the Handzar Division, wearing SS-issued Albanian skullcaps, Bosnia, 1944
SS Reichsfuehrer Heinrich Himmler formed a Kosovo Albanian Muslim Nazi SS Division during World War II, the Skanderbeg SS Division, 21st Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Skanderbeg (1st Albanian), in 1944. He planned to form a second Kosovo Albanian Muslim SS Division but was not able to because the war ended before he could do so. The history of the Skanderbeg division has been documented and analyzed. What has rarely been analyzed, however, is the role of the Kosovo Albanian Muslim members in ...
The Concept & The Origin Of The TermThe term „humanitarian intervention“ is the American political neologism (newly coined word) to morally cover a new format of Washington's global imperialism at the time of the post-Cold War's „New World Order“ in which the USA feel very comfortable to play a role of a global policeman. Theoretically, according to the Western conception of „humanitarian intervention“, one or more states (the USA and the NATO) have a moral (quasi) obligation and/or right to intervene into the internal affairs of other state, if this state (according to the self-evaluation by Washington) does not respect ...
The media never merely report the news. They manipulate and distort the news. They want to tell you what and how to think. Pursuant to this role, they routinely rewrite history. A striking instance of media rewriting of history is in the reporting on Kosovo. In the AP article “US Prosecutor to Probe Kosovo Organ Trafficking”, it is reported that the alleged atrocity occurred “during Kosovo’s war for independence from Serbia” in 1999.
Everyone remembers that war as one to prevent genocide and ethnic cleansing, that it was “a humanitarian intervention”. But here it is now characterized and defined as a ...
The Balkan political environment is shaped-amongst other- by the existence of two political strains of Islam, the Wahhabis, related to the Saudis & Gulf states and the Muslim Brotherhood ones, related to the Turkish-Qatar axis.
In both cases networking developed under a series of upturns since the 1990’s and is inexorably related to wider events of interest such as the ongoing wars in the Middle East and the culminations in countries such as Turkey, Egypt but also EU , Western European ones; including direct security affairs.
Nowadays we are witnessing a massive buyout of land and corporations by mostly UAE, Kuwait and ...
King Abdullah is being eulogized in the most unrealistic ways possible, from CNN designating him as a “reformer” to Chuck Hagel calling him “a powerful voice for tolerance, moderation and peace — in the Islamic world and across the globe.” Israeli President Reuven Rivlin takes the cake, however, by proclaiming that “his smart policy contributed greatly to Middle East stability.” None of these characterizations are true in any way, as Abdullah’s main legacy isn’t one of reform, tolerance, and regional stability, but of destruction, hate, and regional instability. Every contemporary Mideast problem except for the Israel-Palestine issue can be directly ...
In 1991, a delegation of the German Bundestag visited Kosovo for the first time in order to talk with Kosovo Albanian nationalist leaders. This prompted – as early as 1991! – the warning by a senior member of the Yugoslavian parliament that “the British and the Germans would create a common intervention force with 70,000 soldiers in order to intervene in Kosovo.”  Indeed an early and accurate prophecy! So what about Germany’s role in preparing for the Kosovo war?There were and there are strategic differences between German and the US policies about how to retain or enhance hegemony. “As ...
The leak of a secret BND dossier on Hachim Thaci which reports that the newly-elected Kosovan President had links to a contract killer and was involved in the trafficking of people, arms and drugs is more confirmation that Western politicians have chosen to support Thaci in the knowledge of his criminal past.Wikileaks has leaked a secret German Federal Intelligence Service (BND) dossier on Hachim Thaci that dates back to 2005, after the former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) leader had served the first of his two terms in office as Kosovan Prime Minister.The dossier reports that Thaci, who has recently been elected president of Kosovo, was one of the leaders of organized ...
America’s and its allies’ violation of the U.N. Charter, in regards to their recent actions to force a regime-change upon the sovereign nation of Venezuela, are baldly, and with unambiguous clarity, in violation of one of the seven founding “Principles” that are stated in the U.N. Charter.These violations are so severe as to demonstrate that the U.S. Government is an international rogue-regime — a blatant and unapologetic and repeated violator of the U.N. Charter, and of other major sources of international law.The U.N. Charter contains 19 “Chapters” or main divisions, and 111 “Articles” which include each subdivision within each “Chapter.” ...
History is in many ways a myth we create for ourselves. History is constantly falsified to justify wars and territorial claims. Albanian apologists have falsified the role Albania played in the Holocaust to justify an illegal US/NATO war against Serbia and to allow for the creation of a Greater Albania that would include the Serbian province of Kosovo-Metohija.The Jewish victims of the Holocaust in Albania are estimated at 591 from 1941 to 1944, when a Greater Albania was sponsored by Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. There were 33 known families of Albanian Jews living in pre-war Albania. The largest Jewish ...
US foreign policy has nurtured Al Qaeda, a creation of the CIA for more than 35 years, with the support of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and Saudi Arabia’s infamous General Intelligence Presidency (GIP). Lest we forget Osama bin Laden was recruited in 1979 by the CIA at the outset of the Soviet- Afghan war.
A complex network of Al Qaeda affiliated terrorist organizations overseen by US and allied intelligence agencies has unfolded, extending across the Middle East, North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia, Western China, South and South East Asia.
Rand Corporation Report 2012
While mainstream analysis regarding CIA covert support of “jihadist” terrorist entities is a ...
America is coming to the rescue of Al Qaeda under a humanitarian mandate. The unspoken agenda is to undermine the Liberation of Aleppo.
The pretext and justification for these actions are based on America’s “responsibility to protect” (R2P) the “moderates” in Aleppo from Syrian and Russian attacks and bombing raids.
On October 3, the US State Department announced the suspension of bilateral relations with Russia pertaining to Syria (see document below), in response to which, France’s foreign Minister Jean Marc Ayrault was called upon to intermediate at the diplomatic level.
Pointing his finger at Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Jean Marc Ayrault casually accused Moscow ...
Greater Albania under Nazi Germany
During World War II, 35,000 to 40,000 Kosovo Albanians were recruited by Nazi Germany as part of the German occupation forces and security formations in Greater Albania, a state created by Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini that included Kosovo-Metohija, western Macedonia, and territory from Serbia and Montenegro. In Albania, there were 30,000 Albanians who were in the German occupation forces. In 1941, the German occupation forces created a Kosovo Albanian Gendarmerie with headquarters in Kosovska Mitrovica. In 1944, these forces were incorporated into the Skanderbeg Nazi SS Division. In 1942, Balli Kombetar organization battalions were established ...
I come from a member state of the European Union which is meant to uphold the rights of all religions, political ideologies, acknowledge national and cultural rights, and is meant to spread “European brotherhood.” However, it appears that this does not apply to the Orthodox Christians of Bosnia and Kosovo respectively because not only have they been abandoned but outside Islamic powers are stepping up their Islamization agenda in both Bosnia and Kosovo.
In Kosovo the de-Christianization of the Orthodox Christian community continues and hundreds of Orthodox Christian churches have been destroyed but little was done to protect this community. It ...
US-NATO military control of Kosovo serves several purposes for Washington’s greater geo-strategic agenda. First it enables greater US control over potential oil and gas pipeline routes into the EU from the Caspian and Middle East as well as control of the transport corridors linking the EU to the Black Sea.
It also protects the multi-billion dollar heroin trade, which, significantly, has grown to record dimensions in Afghanistan according to UN narcotics officials, since the US occupation. Kosovo and Albania are major heroin transit routes into Europe. According to a 2008 US State Department annual report on international narcotics traffic, several key ...
The name of the modern land-locked country north of Greece, with its capital at Skopje, has returned to the news. It is officially called FYROM, but embedded in that name is “Macedonia” which is a reflection of the longstanding attempt to take over the modern Greek province of Macedonia as reflected in maps used in many places, including schools.
It is clear that this naming implies territorial ambitions which have long been understood (http://macedonia-evidence.org/documentation.html). If that threat to the stability of the southern Balkans is to be stopped permanently, I suggest that the following must happen:
1) the country should be named ...
Kosovo’s Prime Minister Accused of Running Human Organ, Drug Trafficking Cartel
In another grim milestone for the United States and NATO, the Council of Europe (COE) released an explosive report last week, “Inhuman treatment of people and illicit trafficking in human organs in Kosovo.”
The report charged that former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) boss and current Prime Minister, Hashim Thaçi, “is the head of a ‘mafia-like’ Albanian group responsible for smuggling weapons, drugs and human organs through eastern Europe,” The Guardian disclosed.
According to a draft resolution unanimously approved December 16 in Paris, the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights found compelling ...
Autism as the political driving forceAs a matter of very historical fact, Kosovo-Metochia’s ethnic Albanians never accepted the state of Yugoslavia as their own state, nor did they ever recognize the country of Serbia as their homeland. Nevertheless, two important points have to be noticed in regard to this phenomenon. As it is quite known, it is the common feature of the highlanders in general. The Yugoslav and Albanian Dinaric highlanders, in fact, never historically accepted fully any kind of state as their own, for which they would feel any sincere responsibility. It concerns, for instance, the Montenegrins regarding the ...
Editor: Little did I know when I posted a short news story about the ‘invasion of Hungary’ last evening that the situation in Kosovo has become untenable and a mass exodus was so advanced. ‘Pungentpeppers’ has again pulled many threads together to give us the big picture of what is happening in Eastern Europe. Is the US responsible? An Austrian political leader says so!
Mass exodus from Muslim Kosovo into Europe
~150,000 or more Kosovars on the move since summer
~Hungarian Police catch 1,000 Kosovars daily – a small fraction of the total
~Hungarian mayor calls for fence as Kosovars overwhelm village
~Austrian politician blames ...
Former President Bill Clinton continues to be feted around the world as a progressive champion of human rights. However, a European Union task force last week confirmed that the ruthless cabal he empowered by bombing Serbia in 1999 has committed atrocities that include murdering individuals to extract and sell their kidneys, livers and other body parts.Clint Williamson, the chief prosecutor of a special European Union task force, declared that senior members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) had engaged in “unlawful killings, abductions, enforced disappearances, illegal detentions in camps in Kosovo and Albania, sexual violence, forced displacements of individuals from ...
As the old Romans used to say, de mortuis nil nisi bonum, of the dead, speak no evil. Mr. Ivanović did nothing that anyone is aware to merit such a ghastly fate. But it would also be a mistake to regard him as the Ghandi or Mandela of Kosovo’s Serbs. He was a career politician, with everything that encompasses, including rumors of shady deals on the side. Curiously, his profile was that of a “moderate” and “cooperative” local politician. For that, he was rewarded by Pristina authorities not with a medal but a war crimes indictment so preposterous (the obligatory ...
Kosovo Albanian Muslims in the Nazi SS
“Humanitarian Intervention” and the „New World Order“: A Violation of the International Law
Media Literacy 101: Kosovo and Libya
Balkan Islamist Galaxy in a Nutshell
A Royal Shame: Abdullah Leaves a Legacy of Regional Militancy
How Germany Paved the Way to the Kosovo War 1998-1999
German Intelligence Service had Mafia Dossier on Kosovan President since 2005
Blatant Violation, by U.S. & its Allies against the U.N. Charter
Falsifying History: The Holocaust and Greater Albania
When Terrorism Becomes Counter-Terrorism
Air Strikes against Syria: Who are the War Criminals?
Kosovo Under Nazi Germany: Nazi-Created Albanian Security Forces in Kosovo During the World War II
The Forgotten Orthodox Christians of Bosnia and Kosovo
Kosovo: Heroin Transport Corridor
FYROM Should be Named Paionia as it was 2,500 Years Ago
Kosovo: Europe’s “Mafia State”: Hub of the EU-NATO Drug Trail
How Kosovo’s Albanians Destroyed ex-Yugoslavia
Mass Exodus from Muslim Kosovo into Europe: Did US Play a Role in Creating the Crisis?
Kosovo: When the Spoils of War are Human Organs
Kosovo: A Savage Assassination Rocks the Balkans