Muslims in Kosovo and Albania have historically been liberal; most Kosovans have been decades relatively secular and follow moderate Islam that allows bars on the same street as mosques. Muslims in Kosovo, which was a part of the Ottoman Empire for 500 years, follow the Hanafi school of Islam, traditionally a liberal version that is accepting of other religions. However poverty 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. Also Turkey’s Islamist government has funded networks of mosques across its Ottoman-era provinces of Kosovo, Bosnia and Albania.
Since the late 1990s, incidents involving Wahhabi groups have extended beyond the borders of Bosnia-Herzegovina, increasing in frequency in neighbouring states such as Serbia (including Kosovo and Serbian Sandžak), Montenegro (Montenegrin Sandžak), and Macedonia.
American bombing of Serbian positions in Kosovo in 1999 during the air campaign by NATO. Credit Jerome Delay/Associated Press
From Croatia via Bosnia to Kosovo
Osama bin Laden had offices in Croatia and training camps for the muslims in Bosnia. Osama bin Laden was a CIA ally and the U.S. was fine with him until 1998 when the bombing of the African Embassy happened. During the Bosnian War, Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) received financial aid from Iran and Saudi Arabia, and foreign fighters numbering up to 4,000 waged jihad in the war. The Bosnian mujahideen (El Mujahid) was made up of foreign fighters and radical Bosniaks.
After Al-Qaeda and Bosnian mujahideen the focus moved to Kosovo, the training process dates back to 1999, when al-Qaeda terrorists were involved in training the KLA militants in Kosovo. After Nato bombings, Saudi money and influence transformed this once-tolerant Muslim society at the hem of Europe into a front of Islamic extremism and a pipeline for jihadists. Wahhabism began to spread.
Islamist volunteers in the Kosovo Liberation Army from Western Europe of ethnic Albanian, Turkish, and North African origin, were organized by Islamist leaders in Western Europe allied to Bin Laden and Zawahiri. Some 175 Yemeni mujahideen arrived in early May 1998. There were also a dozen of Saudi and Egyptian mujahideen. Since the Kosovo War, there has been an increasing radicalization of Islam in Kosovo. Wahhabism, which is dominant in Saudi Arabia, has gained a foothold in Kosovo through Saudi diplomacy. Saudi money has paid for new mosques, while Saudi-educated imams have arrived since the end of the war in 1999. During UN administration, Saudi Arabian organizations sought to establish a cultural foothold in Kosovo. 98 Wahhabist schools were set up by Saudi organizations during UN administration. Hundreds of Kosovo Albanians have joined jihad in the Middle East. The Kosovo Police arrested some 40 suspected Islamist militants on 11th August 2014. ( Source and more: WikipediA )
Radical Islamism in the Balkans
There is an increase in incidents involving radical Islamism in the Balkans since the 1990s.
Saber Lahman, was arrested under suspicion that he planned to carry out an attack on the USA Embassy in Sarajevo. He was convicted, but was pardoned later after he served two thirds of punishment in prison. He was arrested again in 2002 for participation in al Qaeda’s plan for Bosnia and Herzegovina and was sent to the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. On Christmas Eve 2002, Muamer Topalović, a Wahhabist, killed three Bosnian Croat returnees in their home.
On April 24, 2012, Mevlid Jašarević, a Wahhabi Islamist, was indicted by a federal grand jury in the District of Columbia on charges of attempted murder and other violations in connection with his alleged machine gun attack on the United States Embassy, Sarajevo, on 28th October 2011.
Other incidents in Bosnia were e.g. Zvornik police station shooting , Operation Ruben and 2015 Sarajevo shooting, more about these one can find from WikipediA.
Between 4th and 16th November 2016 Kosovo Police arrested 19 men suspected of links to Islamic State and of planning to carry out attacks in Kosovo and in Albania against Israeli footballers playing a World Cup qualifying match with Albania in Elbasan, central Albania. Unconfirmed media reports have mentioned Kosovo institutions and Serbian Orthodox Church sites as possible Islamist targets. During the arrests, substantial explosives, including 281 grams of TATP, 2.5 kg of other explosive substance, as well as personal weapons and radio-communication devices were found. The people who were arrested were divided into several groups and were being coordinated by two Kosovar ISIS members, Lavdim Muhaxheri and Ridvan Haqifi, the police said. (Source: BalkanInsight )
The Kosovo Albanian terrorism spills over borders, especially to Macedonia. Nearly two years ago was a massive terrorist attack in the quest to create a Greater Albania as over 40 armed individuals fought with police for control of the city of Kumanovo close to the country’s capital. The attackers were from the so-called “Kosovo Liberation Army” (KLA), a former terrorist group that was thought to have been disbanded after NATO occupied the Serbian province, and Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski said that some of them had received their militant training in the Mideast. The combined carnage wounded 37 police officers and killed 8 of them, while ultimately eliminating 14 terrorists and leading to the capture of 30 others. (Source: Sputniknews )
Kosovar jihadists abroad: Some examples
According DEBKAfile four Kosovar jihadists who planned to blow up iconic Venice bridge arrested. Italian counterterror police forces raided several locations 28.-29.3.2017 and arrested four Islamic radicals who planned to blow up Venice’s Rialto Bridge, one of the city’s most visited sites, and kill hundreds of tourists. Venice’s chief prosecutor also disclosed on 30th Mar. 2017 that the authorities had been secretly monitoring the communications of the terror cell members, all citizens of Kosovo linked to ISIS. The radicals were heard expressing joy regarding the March 22 terrorist attack in London, the prosecutor said.
The assassin who shot two American soldiers at Frankfurt Airport in 2011 was an Albanian immigrant. Serbian terrorism expert, Darko Trifunovc, says that the Kosovo Albanian who killed 2 US soldiers in Germany is part of the “white” al-Qaeda being recruited in the Balkans with its center being in Kosovo. The Albanian terrorist, Arif Uka, hails from the town of Kosovska Mitrovica which also happens to be the recruitment center for “white” al-Qaeda that is managed by former Kosovo Albanian KLA gunmen and financed by the Saudis. says another expert, Zoran Dragisic. (Source: Pakistan Christian Post )
Deutsche Welle reports that since 2012, 316 people – including women and children – have left the country to join the so-called “Islamic State” terrorist militia. Of those 316 people, 58 have been killed and 117 have returned to Kosovo, said Baki Kelani, spokesman for Kosovo’s ministry of the interior. According to Kelani, 237 people are being investigated for planning and taking part in terrorist attacks outside Kosovo and also for recruiting, supporting and funding terrorists. Since 2013, 127 of the suspects have been arrested, including an alleged ringleader. According to figures from security experts, 50,000 Kosovars are now members of conservative Islamic groups.
On 20th Jan. 2017 an Albanian man suspected of planning a bomb attack in Vienna was arrested by special forces, Austrian media has reported. The Austrian authorities had been warned about a possible attack by foreign intelligence services. A report from the Kronen-Zeitung newspaper that the suspect had built explosives in Germany. The newspaper also claimed the man belonged to an Islamist group which originated in Albania, and which held sympathies with Islamic State (ISIS). (Source: Foxnews )
On 27 Apr 2008 Foxnews reported that the six foreign-born Muslims accused of planning a shooting attack at the U.S. military base included four Kosovo Albanian Muslims affiliated with the KLA, or the Kosovo Liberation Army, a Terrorist Jihad Wahhabi group. The U.S. officials say their arrests highlight how Islamist groups are using the Balkans region to help in recruiting and financing terrorism.
The Telegraph reported that in southern Kosovo the town of Kacanik during 2012-2015 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. 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. Altogether some 300 Kosovans have joined ISIS, 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 ISIS in its bid to establish a new front against Europe in the Balkans.
Sure there has been a lot of murders and violence in Balkans, Western Europe and North America committed by (Kosovo)Albanian mafia but motivation has been mostly money so there is no direct link to Wahhabism/Jihadism/ISIS/Al Qaeda, for example in March 2017 sc Düsseldorf axe terrorist, a Kosovo-born muslim, probably was only mentally ill without terrorism connections.
When the US State Department listed the KLA as a terrorist organization in 1998, the reason wasn’t radical Islam but its links to the heroin trade. By 1999, Western intelligence agencies estimated that over $250m of narcotics money had found its way into KLA coffers. After the NATO bombing of 1999, KLA-linked heroin traffickers again began using Kosovo as a major supply route; in 2000, an estimated 80% of Europe’s heroin supply was controlled by Kosovar Albanians.
In the summer of 2016, the Kosovar Institute for Policy Research and Development (KIPRED) published a study about the influence of religion on Kosovar identity. According to Lulzim Peci, author of the study, 57 percent of Muslim Albanians feel Albanian and 32 percent defined themselves as Muslims first and then as Albanians. “We see a great shift in identity from ethnicity, the so-called language nation, to a religious-ethnic society,” said Peci in an interview with DW.
Quadruple Helix Model
In my earlier article Quadruple Helix – Capturing Kosovo I described how (Kosovo) Albanian organized crime organizations gained remarkable role in Europe. It is estimated that they are the chief perpetrator of drug and people smuggling, trafficking, organ sales etc. Past estimates suggested that ethnic Albanian traffickers controlled 70% or more of the heroin entering a number of key destination markets, and they have been described as a “threat to the EU” by the Council of Europe at least as recently as 2005. In fact, ethnic Albanian heroin trafficking is arguably the single most prominent organized crime problem in Europe today. Kosovo is serving as a junction for heroin trafficking from Afghanistan to West Europe through famous Balkan route. Now Columbian drug dealers are setting up cocaine supply bases in Albania and Balkans to penetrate into Europe. Already earlier ethnic Albanians organized the transportation of cocaine from the Netherlands and Belgium towards Italy.
Links between drug trafficking and the supply of arms to the KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army) were established mid-90s. In West KLA was described as terrorist organization but when US selected them as their ally it transformed organization officially to “freedom” fighters. After bombing Serbia 1999 KLA leaders again changed their crime clans officially to political parties. This public image however can not hide the origins of money and power, old channels and connections are still in place in conservative tribe society.
Already 2005 Europol stated that the Albanian organized crime is related to the Islamic terrorism e.g. where the Brussells based “Bureau also cooperated in other operations, investigating the dismantling of OC (Organized Crime, note AR) groups that are known for suspicious financial transactions, Albanian organised crime, producing synthetic drugs and related to Islamic terrorism.” (Report here and more e.g. in Balkan route-Business as usual.)
Above I shortly hinted to financial connection between Wahhabi organizations in Kosovo and international terrorism and Wahhabis as potential pool for operations. Then I pointed historical and social link between organized crime groups and Kosovo’s political leaders. All this has also its international dimensions. The last and maybe the most dangerous connection is link between organized crime and Islamic terrorism because its thread to the rest of Europe.
Today’s trend with economical development policy and projects is called a “Triple Helix Model or Approach”. A triple helix regime typically begins as university, industry and government enter into a reciprocal relationship in which each attempts to enhance the performance of the other. It seems that in Kosovo triple helix model has applied and further developed to “Quadruple or Fourfold Helix Model” where government, underworld, Wahhabbi schools and international terrorism have win-win symbiosis.
My articles: Kosovo: Two years of Pseudo-state , Balkan route-Business as usual and Captured Pseudo-State Kosovo .
More about link between organized crime and Kosovo political leaders one can find e.g. from “Albanian Terrorism and Oraganized Crime in Kosovo and Metohija (K&M)” , which also can be found from my document library. Related background information can be found also from “leaked” German Intelligence reports BND report 2005 and BND-IEP report Kosovo 2007 which can be found from my document library under Kosovo headline.
The report, “Inhuman treatment of people and illicit trafficking in human organs in Kosovo”, prepared by Swiss prosecutor-turned-politician Dick Marty. Investigations conducted by the Swiss diplomat, Dick Marty on behalf of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) have revealed the true picture of Kosovo’s prime minister Hashim Thaci. In his report to the PACE’s Commission, Thaci is presented as the leader of a criminal gang engaged in the smuggling of weapons, the distribution of illegal drugs throughout Europe and the selling of human organs for unlawful transplantation. The Swiss senator conducted a two-year inquiry into organised crime in Kosovo after the Council of Europe mandated him to investigate claims of organ harvesting by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) after the war with Serbia ended in 1999.
An exellent article in New York Times – How Kosovo Was Turned Into Fertile Ground for ISIS by Carlotta Gall – gives in deep background info about Kosovo’s transformation from liberal Islam to ground of Islamic extremism
Testimony on the Genesis of Evil – White Book on Albanian terrorism in Kosovo The book addresses the continuity of terrorist activities by Albanian extremists, beginning with the constituting of the parallel system of Albanian government in Kosovo and Metohija and the pretensions of the so-called Government of the Republic of Kosovo headed by Bujar Bukoshi, covering the founding of FARK and the armed forces of “the Republic of Kosovo”, which united separation-oriented former officers of the former Yugoslav People’s Army, to the founding of the “Kosovo Liberation Army” /KLA/, which at the time of the NATO bombing had more than 20,000 armed members, and the KLA’s transformation and engagement of the former terrorists in the Kosovo Protection Corps.