Inside Kacanik, Kosovo’s Jihadist Capital

Share

Hits: 1033

Nestling in a wooded valley that its citizens laid their lives down to defend, the town of Kacanik in southern Kosovo is fiercely proud of its war dead.

Well-kept cemeteries include nearly 100 victims of Serb-led ethnic cleansing in 1999, while in the town centre, a statue clutching an RPG honours fallen members of Brigade 162 of the Kosovan Liberation Army.

But a decade and a half on from the war that brought about Kosovo’s independence, there is rather less pride in Kacanik’s new crop of warriors.

 

Infamous son: Lavdrim Muhaxheri, from Kacanik, in Syria 

In the last three years, some 24 local menfolk have gone to fight for jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq, giving the town of just 30,000 people an unwanted reputation as the jihadist capital of the Balkans.

To add to the sense of shame, one of them, a 25-year-old recruiter named Lavdrim Muhaxheri, has committed atrocities as gruesome as any of those carried out in Kacanik in 1999, when British troops unearthed a mass grave containing 81 bodies.

Last summer, in an act that sent shockwaves across Kosovo, Muhaxheri posted Facebook pictures of himself apparently beheading another man suspected of spying against the Islamic State. Another shows him executing a Syrian man using an RPG.

“Muhaxheri has given Kacanic a name as the most radical city in Kosovo, if not the whole Balkans,” said Musli Verbani, a local imam, who claims that hardliners forced him from Kacanik’s Islamic Association four years ago. “I warned that this kind of thing was coming, but no-one listened.”

Kosovo, of course, is not alone among European nations in acquiring its own equivalent to Britain’s Jihadi John. But for a nation of just 1.8 million people, it now punches well above its weight in terms of the number of citizens joining Isil.

The interior ministry estimates that some 300 Kosovans have followed in Muhaxheri’s’ footsteps, making Kosovo Europe’s biggest contributor per capita. Along with neighbouring Albania, which has fielded around 200, and nearby Bosnia, which around 160, it is now seen as a potential launch pad for Isil in its bid to establish a new front against Europe in the Balkans.

What also alarms Western security officials, though, is why any Kosovans would join Isil’s fanatics at all.

After all, back in 1999, it was the West that rescued Kosovo’s mainly Muslim population, with Nato bombing raids that halted the campaign of ethnic cleansing by Serb extremists.

Since then it has been staunchly pro-Western, with the capital, Pristina, boasting both a statue of Bill Clinton and a road named after George W Bush, who was president when Kosovo formally gained independence in 2008. There are even young Kosovans named “Tony” in honour of Tony Blair.

Most Kosovans also follow moderate Islam that allows bars on the same street as mosques, and which is enshrined in a new constitution promoting the diversity suppressed during Communism.

Yet those same liberal values have also allowed less tolerant voices to flourish, including hardline Islamic charities that arrived during the chaotic post-civil war years.

Such is the foothold of radicalism in towns like Kacanik that last week, its modest town hall received a personal visit from Kosovo’s interior minister, Skender Hyseni.

Kačanik in Southern Serbia’s province of Kosovo

Kacaniku in southern Kosovo where some residents have left to fight in Syria. To the left is the mosque where Imam Musli Verbani was forced from by extremists  Photo: Will Wintercross

“Kosovo is a multi-cultural state, not a terrorist one,” he told assembled officials, speaking at a conference table decked out with the American and Kosovan flags. “Those going overseas are joining groups that spread violence and terror.”

In its defence, the Kosovan government argues that other European nations actually have higher rates of radicalisation if it is counted per head of Muslim population.

But since Muhaxheri’s shocking Facebook post last summer, Mr Hyseni has backed words with action, arresting around 100 suspected extremists, including the grand mufti of the main central mosque in Pristina.

Prosecutions are already pending of various recruiting networks, including one that passed messages via go-betweens at a kebab shop near the Bill Clinton statue.

It is, however, already too late, according to Mr Verbani, the Kacanik imam.

A former KLA fighter, he personifies the moderate face of Kosovan Islam. He studied in Cairo and speaks fluent Arabic, yet looked just like another drinker in the cafe bar where he met The Telegraph, wearing neither a beard nor robes.

It was precisely that secular outlook that he found himself having to defend as far back as 2006, when a confrontation with a young local radical named Jeton Raka turned violent.

“At first Jeton was just another good Kacanik kid, but he became more extremist by the day,” said Mr Verbani. “He said the government of Kosovo was against faith, and that school taught children to be unbelievers. I told him he couldn’t speak like that at my mosque, and eventually he came to my house, saying ‘I will burn you and your family’, and petrol bombed my car. Even then, though, the municipality and the police didn’t help me.”

Raka is now believed to be in Syria along with Muhaxheri, while the government crackdown has largely driven the rest of Kacanik’s radical fringe out of town. Even so, locals remain reluctant to talk about the town’s most infamous son, although in such a small community, most know someone now fighting abroad.

Among them is Sadek Dema whose nextdoor neighbour, Hetem Dema, 41, was killed in January after apparently going to fight with Isil’s rival al-Qaeda faction Jabat al-Nusra.

“He fought in the KLA and was always a good and religious man, although he never showed signs of being radical,” said Mr Dema, as Hetem’s five year-old son, Harith, cycled past on his bicycle.

“Nobody is my father now,” Harith shouted out, before Mr Dema could usher him out of earshot. “Now my uncles look after me.”

Quite why Kacanik in particular has become such a hotbed of radicalism is unclear. Some cite its closeness to the border with Macedonia, where they say hardline preachers remain unchecked. Others blame the same lack of prospects that blight everywhere in Kosovo, where the annual GDP is only £2,500 and where youth unemployment is up to 60 per cent.

That same poverty, they also point out, has made Kosovo fertile ground for Islamic charities from the likes of Saudi Arabia, which offer education and welfare programs but also peddle a hardline vision.

Arbana Xharra, a Kosovan journalist who has investigated their activities, says that anyone who speaks ill of them can find themselves denounced and threatened as “Islamophobic”.

“I’ve had to change my kids’ school after I got messages online from people saying they would cut my children’s throats – they even knew what time they went to class,” she said.

Like many moderate Kosovans, she also points the finger at Turkey, whose Islamist government has funded networks of mosques across its Ottoman-era provinces of Kosovo, Bosnia and Albania. And while the Turkish government has denied recent claims that has offered tacit support for Isil in Syria, Kosovans are not the only ones to voice concerns.

One senior diplomat from a moderate Arab regime recently told The Telegraph that radicalism would foster in the Balkans as long as Turkey’s influence remained unchecked. “The EU’s best chance s to get countries Kosovo and Albania into its club,” he warned.

That is a view echoed by Ramadan Ilazi, Kosovo’s 30-year-old deputy minister for EU integration, who says the EU is being too slow in accepting Kosovo’s membership bid. Kosovo’s constitution, he says, is everything that a liberal EU bureaucrat could want, complete with a national anthem that has only music rather than words so “as not to offend anyone”.

Yet to this day, Kosovans cannot even travel to Europe without visa, giving small town youth in places like Kacanik little chance to broaden their horizons.

“Kosovo was built as an antidote to nationalism and the causes of the war,” said Mr Ilazi, who has a picture on his office wall of him shaking President Clinton’s hand as a 14-year-old boy. “But when people don’t see tangible results of their desire to become part of Europe, that allows radicals to suggest that Europe doesn’t want us.”

Still, with Kosovo still also suffering problems with corruption and organised crime, and with Brussels suffering enlargement fatigue, most estimates are that it may be another decade before Pristina enters the Brussels club. That, gives the radicals plenty more time to urge men in towns like Kacanik to head East rather than West.


Originally published on 2015-08-23

Author: , Chief Foreign Correspondent

Source: The Telegraph

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.

[wpedon id=”4696″ align=”left”]

READ MORE!
A Look at “Kill Anything that Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam”
In Kill Anything that Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam (Metropolitan Books. New York. 2013), Turse writes that the US military’s official position, and the popular understanding in the US, is that leadership “has never condoned wanton killing or disregard for human life.” (2) On the rare occasions when atrocities are brought to light, they are blamed on low-level individuals and are said to be aberrations having nothing to do with official policy. The My Lai massacre, for example, was blamed on Lieutenant William Calley, who is said to have gone “crazy” (4,5) – although he and his unit ...
READ MORE
A New Age of Global Security: The ‚Ukrainian Question‘ and ‚Kosovo Precedent‘
Article by Vladislav B. Sotirović:  „A New Age of Global Security: The ‚Ukrainian Question‘ and ‚Kosovo Precedent‘“, Vojno delo (Military affairs), Interdisciplinary Scientific Theoretical Journal, International Edition, Vol. 69, Issue 4, 2017 (May-June 2017), ISSN 0042-8426, Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Serbia, Belgrade, Serbia, pp. 176−211.Origins of images: Facebook, Twitter, Wikimedia, Wikipedia, Flickr, Google, Imageinjection, Public Domain & Pinterest.Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement!Donate to Support UsWe 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 ...
READ MORE
9 of the World’s 10 Least Peaceful Nations were all Targeted by U.S. Intervention
The 2017 Global Peace Index has declared Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and South Sudan to be among the “least peaceful” countries in the world. Incidentally, all four have been targets of U.S.-led destabilization efforts that were used to pursue economic interests that suit the U.S. MINNEAPOLIS– The annual Global Peace Index, recently released for June 2017, has found that while the world is more peaceful now than last year, violence has increased significantly overall in the past decade. Although the situation has improved in many countries, the ten lowest-ranking nations – known as the world’s “least peaceful” countries – have shown little change ...
READ MORE
Crimea, Kosovo, Catalonia, Corsica and Kurdistan
Just three years after a citizens’ referendum returned Crimea to Russia, from which it had been separated for sixty years, the people of Catalonia, Spain’s largest province, will vote to leave that country.And just as the international community has decreed that the Crimean referendum was a fake, Spain’s Prime Minister felt compelled to declare that the vote could’t possibly take place, that it would be illegal, that independence, in his words, could only be ‘a pipe dream’ for the country’s richest province.Clearly, national governments don’t like losing land and people, however when it suits the international community, some communities are ...
READ MORE
The Ultimate War Crime: America’s “Global War on Terrorism”
The Islamic State is not only protected by the US and its allies, it is trained and financed by US-NATO, with the support of Israel and Washington’s Persian Gulf allies.Al Qaeda Affiliated Entities are “Intelligence Assets. Instruments of US Intelligence. The Global War on Terrorism is a fabrication used to justify a war of conquest. The Jihadist terrorists are “Made in America”. They are instruments of US intelligence, yet they are presented to public opinion as “enemies of America”.IntroductionThe Obama administration has embarked upon the ultimate war crime, a Worldwide military adventure, “a long war”, which threatens the future of humanity.The Pentagon’s global military design is one ...
READ MORE
Albanian Organized Crime in UK and Mainstream Media
The anti Serbian hysteria, ignorance, corrupted officials, media and  public is something the British have to take consequences for.  The consequences are: blooming criminal,  narco business, robberies, theft, prostitution, kidnappings, radicalism, terrorism and other criminal officially supported (and) by Great Britain activities. But only while on Serbian soil. The Serbs were not allowed to defend their state form the criminals; there were NATO bombs to support Neonazi regime(s) in Croatia, radical Islamists in Bosnia and Islamofascists Albanian quasi state Kosovo, built on drug trade, prostitution and Serbian harvested organs.Since Albanians were not happy with ‘Kosovo’ state anymore, and after they ...
READ MORE
The U.S. Documentary Movie: “The Origin Of Islamic State”
Truth in Media, THE ORIGIN OF ISISBen Swann explores the origin of ISIS that has already been long forgotten by American media.Swann takes on the central issue of whether or not ISIS was created by “inaction” by the United States government or by “direct” action.Link to the movie: THE ORIGIN OF ISISOriginally posted by Ben Swann on Thursday, 19 March 2015.Origins of images: Facebook, Twitter, Wikimedia, Wikipedia, Flickr, Google, Imageinjection, Public Domain & Pinterest.Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement!Donate to Support UsWe would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising ...
READ MORE
Kosovo: Hillary Clinton’s Legacy of Terror
Kosovo is Clinton Country: a 10-foot-high statue of Bill overlooks “Bill Clinton Boulevard” in the capital city of Pristina. Hillary is also memorialized in what has become the crime capital of Europe: right off the street named for her husband is a store named “Hillary,” featuring women’s clothing modeled after the putative Democratic party nominee for President. Pantsuits figure prominently. As Vice puts it: “While former President Bill Clinton has had a boulevard named after him, it’s without a doubt that his wife’s the real star out here.” Why is that?As Gail Sheehy pointed out in her biography of Hillary, ...
READ MORE
Israeli Military General Compares Israel to Nazi Germany at Holocaust Remembrance Day Event
Israel is in a class all by itself when it comes to perpetuating some of the worst human rights violations of any country on earth today. For decades, Israel has had a policy of ethnically cleansing and robbing the indigenous Palestinian population of its lands and resources and killing them when they resist the atrocities committed against them under the guise of self-defense. Now, an Israeli military general, someone who is one of the leaders of Israel’s killing machine, has come out and admitted that Israel today shares many of the same elements as Nazi Germany.Addressing an audience at Tel ...
READ MORE
Russian Military Interventions Throughout the World since 1945
Origins of images: Facebook, Twitter, Wikimedia, Wikipedia, Flickr, Google, Imageinjection & Pinterest.Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement!Donate to Support UsWe 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.[wpedon id="4696" align="left"]
READ MORE
Titoslavia: The National Questions and Interrepublican Boundaries
After WWII, the official state-sponsored myth, based on notorious lies and forged historical facts, of the anti-fascist combat and the liberation of Yugoslavia by Tito’s Partisans acquired a political life of its own until the 1990s.The official brainwashed dogma became the so-called National Liberation of Yugoslavia while the personal cult of Josip Broz Tito became framed on the propaganda that self-proclaimed “Marshall” of Yugoslavia (on November 29th, 1943 in Bosnian town of Jajce) was one of the most intelligent and ingenious national leaders of the anti-fascist coalition in Europe during the wartime.[i] However, in post-1945 Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia ...
READ MORE
** FILE ** President Bush declares the end of major combat in Iraq as he speaks aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln off the California coast, in this May 1, 2003 file photo. Democratic congressional leaders on Tuesday, May 1, 2007 sent Iraq legislation setting timetables for U.S. troop withdrawals to President George W. Bush and a certain veto.  On the fourth anniversary of the president's "Mission Accomplished" speech, Senate Majority Democratic Leader Harry Reid said that Bush "has put our troops in the middle of a civil war. A change of course is needed."  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
In George W. Bush’s home state of Texas, if you are an ordinary citizen found guilty of capital murder, the mandatory sentence is either life in prison or the death penalty. If, however, you are a former president of the United States responsible for initiating two illegal wars of aggression, which killed 7,000 U.S. servicemen and at least 210,000 civilians, displaced more than 10 million people from their homes, condoned torture, initiated a global drone assassination campaign, and imprisoned people for years without substantive evidence or trial in Guantanamo Bay, the punishment evidently is to be given the Thayer Award ...
READ MORE
The Waffen SS Against the Serbian Chetniks: Heinrich Himmler’s Inspection Tour in Kraljevo, Serbia (October 1942)
Reichsfuehrer SS Heinrich Himmler arrived in Kraljevo, German-occupied Serbia on Thursday, October 15, 1942 to inspect the 7th Waffen SS Mountain Division “Prinz Eugen”. Himmler spent four days in Serbia, leaving on Sunday, October 18. The first offensive or operation of the Prinz Eugen division, the anti-guerrilla military operation against the Kopaonik region of central Serbia, was to attack the Chetnik guerrillas under Draza Mihailovich in the Kopaonik, Goc and Jastrebac mountains of central Serbia. Prinz Eugen attacked Chetnik troops under Chetnik Major Dragutin Keserovic. Himmler was photographed arriving in an air field in a German Junkers Ju 52 transport plane. Te ...
READ MORE
The CIA and a Greater Albania: The Origins of the US Role in the Balkans
Introduction: The Missing LinkWhy did the US support the separatist and terrorist so-called Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA, or UCK in Shqip), which sought to create an ethnically pure Albanian Kosovo based on ethnicity? Why did the US sponsor a criminal and illegal separatist movement that sought to ethnically cleanse non-Albanians and create an independent state of Kosova? Why was the US supporting and sponsoring the re-establishment of a fascist-Nazi Greater Albania that Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini had initially created?When did the US begin to play a role in Kosovo? Did the US role in Kosovo begin with the arming ...
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
America Created Al-Qaeda and the ISIS Terror Group
Incisive article originally published by GR in September 2014.  Terror attacks in Western cities (Manchester, Paris, Brussels, Nice, Barcelona…) allegedly perpetrated by Al Qaeda-ISIS.          *     *     *Much like Al Qaeda, the Islamic State (ISIS) is made-in-the-USA, an instrument of terror designed to divide and conquer the oil-rich Middle East and to counter Iran’s growing influence in the region.The fact that the United States has a long and torrid history of backing terrorist groups will surprise only those who watch the news and ignore history.The CIA first aligned itself with extremist Islam during ...
READ MORE
The Origins and Ultimate Purpose of ISIS
ISIS is Born in IraqThe origins of ISIS are buried beneath the rubble of the US occupation.It was out of this crucible of war and invasion that the original grievances were born, leading analysts to conclude that "the basic causes of the birth of ISIS" were the United States' "destructive interventions in the Middle East and the war in Iraq."1The framework underlying this being the exacerbation of Sunni-Shia tensions in the aftermath of the invasion, which previously have been inflamed through various other foreign interferences. These were highlighted by the sectarian brutality of the post-invasion Iraqi government, which then continued ...
READ MORE
George H. W. Bush: The Man Who Embodied What Putin’s Accused of Being
The passing of former President George H. W. Bush over the weekend prompted a lot of reflection about the influence that he had on America’s role in the immediate post-Cold War era. Notorious for literally proclaiming the “New World Order”, Bush Sr. also has the ignoble distinction of being one of the US’ few one-term presidents, dramatically losing then-Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton in the 1992 election. More interestingly for most foreign observers, however, is that Bush Sr. literally embodied much of what Russian President Vladimir Putin is accused of being, even if the Western Mainstream Media will never recognize this ...
READ MORE
How Germany Paved the Way to the Kosovo War 1998-1999
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.” [2] 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 ...
READ MORE
Independence on Nakba Day – Accountability and Healing as an Israeli Aggressor
I am an Israeli-American. I was raised in a middle-class academic ‘Liberal Zionist’ household (aligned with the Israeli Labor Party and Meretz), which is an inherent contradiction. Liberal Zionism maintains a belief in universal human rights yet it supports a Zionist ideology that endorses and promotes Israel as a Jewish state – one that has been systematically carrying out a project of apartheid and ethnic cleansing of the native Palestinian people. Since I can remember, my birth town of Jerusalem has been highly segregated. Growing up, I never interacted with Palestinians other than Abed the soft-spoken gardener from Hebron (aka El ...
READ MORE
A Look at “Kill Anything that Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam”
A New Age of Global Security: The ‚Ukrainian Question‘ and ‚Kosovo Precedent‘
9 of the World’s 10 Least Peaceful Nations were all Targeted by U.S. Intervention
Crimea, Kosovo, Catalonia, Corsica and Kurdistan
The Ultimate War Crime: America’s “Global War on Terrorism”
Albanian Organized Crime in UK and Mainstream Media
The U.S. Documentary Movie: “The Origin Of Islamic State”
Kosovo: Hillary Clinton’s Legacy of Terror
Israeli Military General Compares Israel to Nazi Germany at Holocaust Remembrance Day Event
Russian Military Interventions Throughout the World since 1945
Titoslavia: The National Questions and Interrepublican Boundaries
Duty, Honor, Atrocity: George W. Bush Receives a Character Award at West Point
The Waffen SS Against the Serbian Chetniks: Heinrich Himmler’s Inspection Tour in Kraljevo, Serbia (October 1942)
The CIA and a Greater Albania: The Origins of the US Role in the Balkans
The Memorandum (1804) by the Karlovci Metropolitan Stevan Stratimirovic
America Created Al-Qaeda and the ISIS Terror Group
The Origins and Ultimate Purpose of ISIS
George H. W. Bush: The Man Who Embodied What Putin’s Accused of Being
How Germany Paved the Way to the Kosovo War 1998-1999
Independence on Nakba Day – Accountability and Healing as an Israeli Aggressor
FOLLOW US ON OUR SOCIAL PLATFORMS
Share