Small Wars Journal

Kosovo, Home to Many ISIS Recruits, Struggling to Stamp Out Homegrown Terrorism

Fri, 08/24/2018 - 12:32pm

Kosovo, Home to Many ISIS Recruits, Struggling to Stamp Out Homegrown Terrorism by A.J. Naddaff – Washington Post

PRISTINA, Kosovo - For all of the attention paid to the emergence of homegrown Islamist terrorists in Belgium, France and other European countries, one of the continent’s biggest radicalization problems is taking places on its fringes.

Kosovo, the tiny Muslim-majority Balkan nation of just 1.8 million, has produced more foreign fighters per capita than any other Western nation since the Islamic State declared its now-defunct caliphate in 2014. Four-hundred-and-thirteen Kosovo citizens have joined that group and other Islamist extremist factions in that time.

As it attempts to join the European Union, Kosovo has been under pressure to stamp out its radicalization problem — and authorities claim they have succeeded. Since 2013, Kosovar police say they have indicted more than 120 terrorist suspects and arrested many more, including well-known conservative imams suspected of recruiting people to fight abroad.

“Now we don’t see terrorism as a threat,” said Kujtim Bytyqi, one of the government’s senior security policy analysts and the head of Kosovo’s strategy to counter violent extremism. “There is total silence. All imams, even if they want to say something, are afraid of the government.”

But many of those suspected terrorists, convicted under an older counterterrorism law that limited prison sentences to five years, are now being freed. And some say attempts to rehabilitate them have come up short…

Read on.