Law enforcement re-examines Islamic groups in the Balkans


An analyst says police are paying special attention to not anger peaceful Islamic followers as they investigate reports of violent extremism.

By Misko Taleski for Southeast European Times in Skopje -- 06/05/13


After the Boston Marathon bombing, there is a renewed focus on stopping radical Islam in the Balkans. [AFP]

Unidentified Islamic groups in the Balkans have sent threatening messages to foreign diplomats, military and political representatives as well as to the international missions serving in the region, prompting law enforcement to re-examine numerous Islamic groups, security analysts said.

Measures are being taken to follow the activities of such groups to prevent potential terrorist acts, according Zoran Mitevski, former assistant director of the Intelligence Agency of Macedonia.

"These organizations are active in BiH [Bosnia and Herzegovina] but also in Sandzak [Serbia] and in Kosovo, and they continually try to expand their activities in Macedonia. Suspected are the Islamic Warriors, Islamic Legion, Faitah, Islamic Youth, Sheve, Hamas Turbe and others," Mitevski said.

The radical Islamic groups' activists are training and financed from sources in the Middle East and the potential danger lies in the fact that activists are trained to produce explosive devices including those similar to the recent bombings in Boston, according to Ivan Babanovski, analyst and former security studies professor at Security Faculty in Skopje.

"There are about 3,000 Wahhabis in Macedonia, mostly among the Albanian minority and Bosnians, in the Skopje region, Tetovo, Struga and Kumanovo. Their work is financed by donations from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and Iran. The latter is concentrated for a deeper penetration in Europe, using the Balkans as a springboard," Babanovski told SETimes.

Iran has been increasingly linked to the Islamic movements in BiH capable of carrying out terrorist acts, according to veteran security analyst Dzevad Galijasevic.

"The Wahhabies in BiH are the remaining [elements] of the former mujahedeen, members of the Muslim Youth and naturalised foreigners who are under the influence of Sunnis but also the Shiites from Iran. This movement now approaches about 120,000 members, of which 3,000 pose threat to security," Galijasevic told SETimes.

The International Crisis Group also issued a warning after the meeting of about 500 Salafists in Tuzla last February. The organisation said BiH represents the springboard for the Salafi movement, which uses terrorism for achieving its goals, to spread to Europe.

Security experts said the Wahhabi colony in Gornja Maoca near Srebrenik does not respect the constitution and laws of BiH.

"There are no incidents, but that does not mean there can not be incidents. It is enough for the police to visit the field and implement a procedure against the persons that break the constitutional-legal order in the country," Mehmet Bradaric, member of the Joint Commission for Defence and Security in the BiH parliament, said.

The Wahhabis in Kosovo first put their hands on controlling the profitable mosques from which they finance their activities, according to Babanovski.

Babanovski said new members are recruited by Kosovo groups that organise free courses, religious gatherings and lectures.

Prizren is one of the centres for the Wahhabi expansion in Kosovo, where three years ago the police arrested several of the most radical followers, but they have strong following in Pristina, Djakovica, Decani, Urosevac and Kacanik.

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"Regional law enforcement co-operate with the support from Western counterparts to prevent any threat of the radical Islamic activities but particularly ones that may be directed at foreign diplomatic representations," Petar Shkrbina, a military-security analyst and retired Yugoslav army colonel, told SETimes.

Shrbina said particular attention is paid to not disillusion or anger peaceful Islamic followers.

"The mayor of Dubrovnik allowed the building of an Islamic cenre in the historic city and signed an agreement with the Islamic Community in Croatia about it. Such actions should be praised and every effort undertaken not to radicalise some Muslims and playing in the hands of the extremists," Shrbina said.

How concerned are you about extremist activity in the region? Make your opinions known below.

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Is co-operation between regional countries adequate to counter efforts by extremists to join violent organisations?

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