More than 40 people were arrested in a large operation across Kosovo for recruiting fighters for ISIL and al-Nusra.
By Linda Karadaku for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 15/08/14
Kosovo police officers escort a man to a court in Pristina on Tuesday (August 12th) on suspicion of having fought in Syria and Iraq alongside extremists. [Laura Hasani/SETimes]
A Kosovo official said the country's police operation against Islamic extremists will continue, with active investigations against imams who are suspected of recruiting people to fight alongside terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria.
The chief prosecutor of the Special Prosecutor's Office, Sevdije Morina, confirmed that some imams are also being investigated.
"We also have some other cases being investigated," Morina told SETimes. "There are imams also, and people of different profiles."
Police on Monday (August 11th) arrested 40 people on charges that they were recruiting people to fight in Syria and Iraq for al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
The arrests involve suspects from Prizren, Pristine, Ferizaj, Gjilan, Peje and Mitrovica. Authorities searched about 60 locations and confiscated explosives, weapons and ammunition.
On Thursday (August 14th), police arrested two imans, from Gjilan and Polac, on suspicion that they were recruiting people for jihad and participation in a terrorist group.
"The Police of the Republic of Kosovo inform its citizens of the danger that anyone faces taking the path of joining the suspected organisations that operate in the territory of Syria and Iraq, where, so far, 16 people from the Republic of Kosovo have been declared killed," Kosovo police said in a statement.
The Presidency of Kosovo Islamic Community supported the police action, and said believers should never become part of the illegal groups that risk the lives of Kosovo youngsters and threaten the security of the country.
"The Islamic Community invites once again the believers, and in particular our young people, not to fall prey of different radical groups that call upon the name of the so-called jihad and some caliphate," it said in a statement.
Mentor Vrajolli, a senior researcher in Kosovo Centre for Security Studies, told SETimes that the danger from the radical groups in Kosovo is at a high level for the national security in the country.
"As clearly seen now, this is about well-organised cells that operate in Kosovo by now for a long time and which have been recruited through the so-called imams or some ghost so-called NGOs, whose main activity was to indoctrinate and recruit individuals, mainly of young ages, without any quality education or life perspective," Vrajolli said.
Vrajolli said that some imams continue to promote an intolerant doctrine, with violent nuances of Islam.
Kosovo Interior Minister Bajram Rexhepi told RTV21 in Pristina that officials expect the Islamic Community to take the appropriate measures and co-operate with the authorities.
Burim Ramadani, a security expert and former MP in the parliament, told SETimes that the actions of the security institutions in Kosovo are necessary to prevent whatever danger is posed to the security, life and property of the citizens.
"The latest announced actions on the arrest of tens of jihadist extremists of ISIL and al-Nusra in Kosovo are good news of the necessary reaction of the security institutions," Ramadani told SETimes.
President Atifete Jahjaga hailed the action "against those suspected of terrorism, participation in the war in Syria and Iraq on the side of the terrorist organisations and the interruption of the activity in suspicious locations that are related to inciting violent extremism and hate."
Jahjaga also informed the ambassadors and representatives of Great Britain, France, Germany and Italy of the operation, saying that "the issue of extremism and terrorism is treated with particular priority."
What should mosques and imams do to actively discourage the extremism and the recruitment of members to fight in Iraq and Syria? Add your thoughts in the comment area below.