Kosovo police deployed specialised units to locate the supporters of arrested Islamic extremists following a terrorist threat.
By Linda Karadaku for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 14/11/13
Kosovo's anti-terrorism and anti-cybercrime police units are working on identifying the members of a terrorist group that issued a threat this week. [Laura Hasani/SETimes]
An extremist group that threatened Kosovo police with "terrible and painful attacks" unless six of its members currently being held on terrorism and weapons charges are released is believed to have ties to former fighters in the Syrian war.
Police said anti-terrorism and other specialised units are working to identify the members of the Xhemati i Teuhidit dhe Xhihadit ne Kosove -- Muslim Believers of Tauhid and Jihad in Kosovo. The extremist group sent authorities an email threat on Monday (November 11th).
Information technology experts said the police's cybercrime unit needs about 12 hours to identify the computer from which the threat was sent.
The six suspects, Albanians from Pristina and Gjilan in eastern Kosovo, are believed to have been planning terrorist attacks in those cities. They were arrested November 6th but the operation wasn't made public until Monday.
Experts said the case is an example of the dangers posed by radicalised Balkan fighters who are returning from the Syrian civil war.
"Those who have fought in Syria should be taken seriously. After a period of time they are returning to Kosovo," Fatmir Xhelili, member of the parliamentary commission for internal issues, security and supervision of the Kosovo Security Force, told SETimes.
Xhelili said several Islamic extremist groups operate in Kosovo, but this group is apparently new, which is why there has not been any information about it, said Abit Hoxha, security researcher at the Centre for Security Studies in Pristina.
"For sure, they are inter-connected with the [arrested]. But due to the fact that they issued the threat, they are considered an active cell," Hoxha told SETimes.
Many associated with the group have been arrested, said Avnu Zogani of the Cohu (Stand Up) movement.
"[B]ut the case has been damaged a lot by publicising the arrest," Zogani told SETimes.
Hoxha said former combatants are returning to Kosovo and have a clear ideology.
Kosovo media said the brother of one suspect, Bekim Mulolli, is currently fighting in Syria.
The family of another suspect, Genc Selimi, denied he was in Syria, saying he was in Istanbul intending to study in Egypt through an Arab organisation.
Security experts said the threats issued from this or similar extremist groups are real and can undermine Kosovo's constitutional order.
"The values they have fought for in Syria do not match Kosovo's social context, and therefore Kosovo can be potential territory to extend their activity [elsewhere] in various forms, including violence," Hoxha said.
Experts also said Islamic extremists seek momentum to increase membership and new opportunities for recruitment and support via the latest technologies.
"Besides regional and international networking, and the impact from the conflicts in the Middle East, the online community of social media serves as mobilisation tool for such groups," Hoxha said.
Jonathan Ratel, head of Kosovo's Special Prosecutor's Office (SPRK), told SETimes his office "is now reviewing the investigation and will decide whether to exercise its exclusive jurisdiction in cases against terrorism, pursuant to the law on SPRK."
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