THE GANGLAND OF KOSOVOSTAN

Monitoring the Albanian Kosovostan Islamic Caliphate founded by ex-US President Bill Clinton in June 1999

Albanian jihadist’s easy passage to Syria’s brutal war



ISIL Army

A former Islamist fighter in Syria recalls why he went to Syria, how easy it was to get there – and why he would go again, if he could.

Aleksandra Bogdani, Flamur Vezaj BIRN Tirana

90 Albanians went to Syria between 2012 and 2014 to take part in what they believed was a holy war. Photo: BIRN

On his first trip abroad, he left with 400 euros in his pocket, a printed map from the internet and the belief that he was fulfilling his destiny in eyes of Allah. The destination was the frontline of the war in Syria, but his jihad ended faster than it started.

Two years later, in a bar full of people in his hometown in northern Albania, Ebu Merjem stands out with his long beard and his trousers cut short above the ankle.

He does not like the attention he attracts and chooses a half-empty corner of the bar to explain what that pushed him towards a far-away war.

 “If I had the chance, I would go even today and fight in Syria,” Ebu Merjem says. “It was God that created jihad and you have to love something that God loves,” he added.

The 37-year-old unemployed father-of-two has been a practicing Muslim for 17 years.

He is one of 90 Albanians who went to Syria between 2012 and 2014 to take part in what they believed was a holy war.

Since the Syrian conflict began, ten Albanian jihadists have lost their lives there. Thirty others returned home before the adoption of a law that criminalizes participation in conflicts abroad.

According to documents obtained by BIRN, nearly 50 Albanian jihadists identified by the security services are still fighting in Syria.

Albania is a Muslim majority country with a long tradition of interfaith coexistence, and few understand why local Muslims like Ebu Merjem have traveled to fight in Syria.

Merjem has lived all his life in Albania, but believes his homeland is wherever there are Muslim believers. If his Muslim brothers are being attacked, even if they are thousands of kilometers away, he feels it his duty to protect them.

 “My brother is the American, Syrian or French Muslim. My enemy may even be my brethren,” he says.  “This has nothing to do with nationality or blood. I went there for my faith and my biggest regret is that I couldn’t experience war,” he added.

The road to Syria

The majority of the Albanian jihadists became part of the Jabhat al-Nusra front, a branch of Al-Qaeda. Photo: BETA/AP

Syria was the last country in the Middle East to be engulfed by the wave of anti-government protests in spring 2011 known as the Arab Spring. The conflict there soon took the nuances of a civil war.

The involvement of militant Islamic organizations in this war and its geographical proximity to Europe soon turned Syria into a hub for jihadists from all over the world.

The use of the internet and social networks directly from the battlefield popularized calls for jihad, especially in Europe where a considerable number of second-generation immigrants from the Middle East have embraced religious extremism.

From the beginning of the conflict until now, over 12,000 foreigners from 81 countries have joined militant organizations fighting in Syria. Nearly 3,000 are believed to have come from Western countries.

Ninety of these fighters are Albanian followers of the Salafist brand of Islam, preached on the fringe by imams, often in isolated mosques whose legal standing the official Muslim Community of Albania questions.

These believers started to show up in force at Tirana airport in the autumn of 2012, where they declared they were travelling to Turkey for health reasons. From Turkey, the jihadists jumped the border illegally into Syria and landed in the war.

The head of Albanian League of Imams, Justinian Topulli, lists several reasons for the involvement of Albanian Muslims in the war in Syria.

He says they felt a form of religious solidarity with the Syrian Muslims in their struggle against Bashar al Assad’s dictatorship, but it was also a way of escaping the Albanian reality, in which many Muslims do not feel comfortable.

Another no less important reason, according to Topulli, is the misunderstanding and misinterpretation of religious texts about the Apocalypse, which some preachers mistakenly tie with current events in Syria.

In contrast to Topulli, Ebu Merjem believes that a Muslim’s highest purpose is the sacrifice of jihad.

“A man must seek the eternal. One day we will all die, but to die as a Muslim martyr is the highest death of all,” says Ebu, sounding very convinced.

This is what he was looking for when he went to Syria on November 17, 2012, with three other believers from Albania.

For three months he went from one camp to another, but he never got the opportunity to go to the front even for a day, which disappointed him deeply.

He returned on February 2, 2012, a few days after two of his other comrades also returned home. The fourth member of the group, Denis Jangulli, was killed on the first day he went to fight against the government forces of Assad.

Many things have changed since then, both in Albania and Syria. The Albanian police have either arrested the religious leaders of the Albanian fighters in Syria or they are on the run.

After turning a blind eye to the Albanian jihadists traveling to Syria for a long time, the authorities opened an investigation in December 2013.

On March 11,a joint operation by the Serious Crimes Prosecution Office, the National Intelligence Service and the police resulted in eight arrests and warrants being issued for five others.

On August 19, Albania passed a law that mandates jail sentences of up to 15 years for anyone who gets involved in the Syrian conflict or who recruits people to take part in the war.

Two of the suspects detained in the joint operation were imams, accused of organizing the recruitment of the jihadists.

Genci Balla and Bujar Hysa used to preach jihad in two mosques; one located in a suburb of Tirana and the other in the village of Mezez, a few kilometres from the capital. Some more isolated cells were identified in Leshnicë, near Pogradec, the city of Elbasan, the town of Cerrik and the village of Dragostunje, near Librazhd.

The third organizer was Gerti Pashaj, a student radicalized in Turkey, who is thought to have acted as a guide for the Albanian jihadists seeking to reach the war front.

Ebu Merjem denies having been recruited or paid by any of them. He says he went to Syria of his own free will and adds that Denis Jangulli helped him only with the details of the trip.

He describes Jangulli, who was killed, as a brother and as a devoted believer who spoke four foreign languages and had strong connections in Kosovo and Macedonia.

Ebu Merjem cannot speak any foreign language and only embraced Islam after getting in touch with two Albanian students who had studied religion in Saudi Arabia.

The cleric Justinian Topulli says a lack of understanding of Islamic text is the main reason why so many Albanians that have gone to fight in Syria, believing they are engaging in holy war.

Topulli explains that while a good Muslim must fulfill the commandments of the Koran, armed jihad is not one of them.

“Armed jihad is not an individual obligation either for Albanians or for the others, but for communities and countries if they have the possibility to do something in this case,” he said. “Our jihad is to help our country and family to deal with the problems of our common home, called Albania,” Topulli added.

Forced oath of allegiance

The journey to Syria for jihadists is a simple one. Photo: BETA/AP

According to Ebu Merjem, the journey to Syria for jihadists is a simple one. They travel to Istanbul, buy a bus ticket worth 80 euro to the border town of Rehanlia and find a man there to jump the border.

He describes the region between Turkey and Syria as easy terrain for would-be jihadists; dozens of young people from France, Sweden, America or Belgium go in and out from a fence, which is the only barrier between the two countries.

Smuggling jihadists from one side of the border to the other is no different from the other kinds of human smuggling.

Ebu Merjem says he gave a Turkish shepherd a few euros to help him cross the border mostly because he was afraid he would spy on him rather than show him the way.

After they crossed the border, Ebu Merjem and his comrades sought the city of Aleppo, which has been the scene fierce fighting between government forces and rebels since the start of the conflict.

However, the Albanians got stuck for a long time in the camps in Tal Rifat, a town in the Aleppo region controlled by the Al-Nusra front, a branch of al-Qaeda.

The Albanian jihadist were eager to reach the front but underwent a series of background checks by leaders of the foreign jihadists. “They looked at as with suspicion and gathered our passports in order to verify us. We didn’t like this but they were afraid of infiltration,” Merjem says.

The Albanian jihadists stayed for the first 10 days in a house and were then sent to a real training camp. The camp was also in the region of Tal Rifat. This time, they stayed in a luxury home occupied by the radical Islamic group, a phenomenon that the media call the “5-star jihad”.

They spent their days studying the Koran and were trained to use Kalashnikovs or snipers. “We also used to run a little but it was no big deal. The lack of weapons was the main problem and none of us had 1,500 dollars to buy a Kalashnikov,” he said.

According to the Albanian prosecution file obtained by BIRN, the majority of the Albanian jihadists became part of the Jabhat al-Nusra front, a branch of Al-Qaeda. Some arrived there as part of a Turkish extremist group, Murat Gezenler, while the Albanians from Macedonia fought under Chechen fighters.

However, in a chaotic civil war this configuration changed over time. By 2013, most of the Albanians had gathered in a brigade of 45 to 50 persons on the outskirts of Aleppo led by Numan Demolli, from Kosovo, and, after he was killed, by Lavdrim Muhaxheri.

Until ISIS emerged, they stayed under the protection of Al-Nusra. Today, most of the 50 Albanians remaining in Syria are fighting with Islamic State.

In his interview for BIRN, Merjem says they couldn’t stay in the camp unless they swore an oath to Al-Nusra. If they had not done so, their presence there would have become even more suspicious and unwanted.

“The people from Jabhat al-Nusra came and asked us to swear an oath to them but we didn’t do that,” he says.  “We told them that we were sworn to Allah and were there to help the Syrian people,” he added.

During his three months stay in Syria, Merjem had another problem. He had not got his mother’s permission to engage in holy war. This is a big concern for believers, because jihad is seen as invalid if it is undertaken without a parent’s permission.

After his mother refused to give her permission, Ebu Merjem decided to return to Albania. During this period, his fellow Albanian jihadist, Jangulli, was killed in an attack outside Aleppo.

“I was saddened because I would miss a friend; at the same time I was also happy because God received him as a martyr,” Merjem recalled.

Merjem returned to Albania on February 2, 2013. Since then, the authorities have not allowed him to leave the country.

He keeps informed about everything happening in Syria and now question some of the actions of the Islamic State.

Merjem says that the war is causing death on all sides, endless atrocities, including the crimes that “the Muslim brothers” of ISIS are displaying with pride in social media. But still he does not like it when their crimes are judged by non-believers.

“They are shedding a lot of blood in the name of religious misunderstandings and misinterpretation of the Koran,” he says. “Even scholars have talked about this. But we don’t want their mistakes being judged by anyone else except Muslims,” Merjem added.

European Union countries and Europol suspect that former jihadists like Merjem pose a threat to European security.

In the West, the de-radicalization of the jihadists is often compared to the rehabilitation of alcoholics or drug addicts.

Albania’s authorities are uncertain how to best respond to this threat. Since adopting the law that penalizes involvement in the war in Syria, the government has set up a massive antiterrorism structure to monitor its citizens that have returned home.

But Prime Minister Edi Rama believes that Albania is no more exposed to Islamic radicalism than other countries. “This risk is everywhere, just like Ebola,” said Rama in an interview.

The Albanian police told BIRN that jihadist returning from Syria do not pose a particular threat to the country, although their social isolation may become problematic in the future.

Topulli, from the League of Imams, agrees, arguing that the integration of these people back into society is the challenge lying ahead. He urges the authorities to show caution and avoid using repressive measures that could add to tensions.

“The people who returned from Syria are part of us and must be treated like all normal people so that they do not feel like strangers in this society,” Topulli said.

Merjem confirms that he doesn’t quite fit into Albanian society. Because of his faith, he has had to quit one job after another and he often finds it difficult to support his family.

He does not believe in the Muslim Community, the state or the international community. He thinks they collaborate all to interfere with his Muslim brothers in Albania and the world.

He would rather live in a remote land than Albania, if he could find spiritual peace there. “If they established a good Islamic state in future, I would choose to live there. People like us feel despised here,” he concluded.


Ebu Merjem is the religious name of the interviewee after he returned from Syria. Mejrem agreed to give this interview to BIRN in November 2014, without revealing his real identity.

Original Source of the article: http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/albanian-jihadist-s-easy-passage-to-syria-s-brutal-war-11-25-2015

kosare-albanians

Save

Save

Save 

RELATED POSTS
The shortened list of the Serb Christian Orthodox shrines of Kosovo-Metochia (13th-20th centuries)
This list of shrines is based on a study by Milan Ivanovic, Crkveni spomenici XIII-XX veka (Church Monuments from 13th to 20th century) from Zaduzbine Kosova (The Foundations of Kosovo), Prizren-Belgrade 1987, and other recent publications. Dragan Jovanovic, researcher, compiled the major part of this list. A AJKOBILA (in the Middle Age Prozdrikobila, Pristina): demolished church in the vicinity of the present-day mosque. AJNOVCE (in the Middle Ages Hainovci, K. Kamenica): 1. ruins of the Tamnica monastery with the church built and frescoed in the 14C on the foundations of an older Byzantme basilica; 2. remains of a church in the old cemetery ...
READ MORE
The forgotten Orthodox Christians of Bosnia and Kosovo
I come from a member state of the European Union which is meant to uphold the rights of all religions, political ideologies, acknowledge national and cultural rights, and is meant to spread “European brotherhood.”  However, it appears that this does not apply to the Orthodox Christians of Bosnia and Kosovo respectively because not only have they been abandoned but outside Islamic powers are stepping up their Islamization agenda in both Bosnia and Kosovo. In Kosovo the de-Christianization of the Orthodox Christian community continues and hundreds of Orthodox Christian churches have been destroyed but little was done to protect this community.  It ...
READ MORE
A Short History of Kosovo-Metochia
The region of Kosovo & Metohija (Metochia in English) was a political center of mediaeval Serbia and makes the very essence of Serbian spiritual and cultural identity and statehood since the Middle Ages up today. The biggest and the most important number of Serbian Orthodox mediaeval monasteries and churches (for instance, Gračanica, Pećka Patrijaršija, Bogorodica Ljeviška and Visoki Dečani) are built exactly in Kosovo & Metohija and the headquarters of the Serbian Orthodox Church - Patriarchate established in 1346 was located (till 1766) in the city of Peć in the western portion of the region called Metohija. The capital of ...
READ MORE
Dusseldorf axe attacker: “Fatmir H,” Muslim Albanian from Kosovo
If a German had showed up in London in 1944 and opened fire, would police have ruled out any connection to Nazism? Fatmir H comes from a hotbed of jihad activity. The Islamic State and al-Qaeda have issued repeated calls for Muslims in West to murder civilians. We have seen the perpetrators of numerous jihad terror attacks declared mentally ill, often absurdly. In light of all that, the possibility that this was a jihad terror attack cannot be ruled out. “‘He jumped out of the train and started to strike at people with an AXE’: Horror in Dusseldorf as Kosovan attacker ...
READ MORE
Islamic fundamentalism in the Balkans
The Jewish woman stood in the office of Bosnian president Alija Izetbegovic. She was distraught. She placed a handful of broken tiles on the desk in front of her and told the president's adviser, "It's a crime, a crime against culture. They are destroying a holy place, a place that is of incalculable value to Sarajevo." "There's nothing we can do," the adviser replied sorrowfully. "They have the money and they are going to do what they want." The most interesting aspect of this incident, which took place after the end of the Bosnian war in 1995, is that the temple the ...
READ MORE
Documentary film “Stolen Kosovo” (The Czech Republic)
The truth about Kosovo and Metochia. This documentary film was made by the Czech Republic TV and banned in all mainstream globalist media in western countries. It will reveal to you the horrifying story of Kosovo that nobody ever wanted to tell you and debunking all hoaxes, lies and propaganda NATO used for trigger events... In 1999 NATO bombed Serbia for 78 days and destroyed everything on its way bridges,hospitals,schools, telecommunicat­ion buildings, military bases...killing more than 2.500 and wound more than 5.000 civilians. One of the reasons why NATO bombed Serbia is to build the biggest military base in Albania, so they can move ...
READ MORE
Washington’s “humanitarian” war and the KLA’s crimes
Revelations of fascistic crimes carried out by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) prior to, during and after NATO’s war against the former Yugoslavia should provide a salutary lesson whenever Washington again cites humanitarian concerns to justify its predatory war aims. A new report prepared by Swiss Council of Europe deputy Dick Marty slams Kosovo leader Hachim Thaci for organ trafficking and other abominable crimes, deftly shaded by the U.S. in pursuit of their own self-interests. A report by the Council of Europe describes Kosovo today as a country subject to “mafia-like structures of organised crime”. It accuses KLA commander and current ...
READ MORE
Exporting Jihad: Bosnia and Kosovo
Bosnia and Kosovo are two of the biggest exporters of jihadists joining the Islamic State (ISIS) and al-Nusra Front (al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria) from the Balkans. As The Cipher Brief reported last month, legacies of the Communist era and the wars of the 1990s – presence of foreign fighters, economic and physical destruction, a lack of funding to rebuild, and the near eradication of moderate Islamic institutions – paved the way for Islamic extremist groups to establish a foothold in both countries. Now, ISIS recruiters are targeting Bosnia and Kosovo, and many Bosnians and Kosovars have left to fight in Syria and ...
READ MORE
The Balkan Caliphate: Saudi power in Kosovo
Greater Albania has been debating deployment in Syria. A Muslim state, a Balkan Caliphate in the heart of Europe, was supported by Internationalists when they created independent Kosovo and Bosnia. Kosovo registered its first Islamist political party in 2013.  UPDATE: An article on NYT on the inroads of Wahabism into Europe from the Saudi foothold in Kosovo is oozing criminal naiveté on the part of postmodern globalist thinkers. Bill Clinton's nexus with the lobby for Greater Albania created a Islamic state in the heart of Europe. To those with basic knowledge of Islam and its 1400 year old history -- not least ...
READ MORE
Potential new EU member is jihad’s Trojan horse
Fourteen people were arrested last Friday in raids in the Austrian capital of Vienna and the city of Graz. Prosecutors said the coordinated action, which involved 800 officers, was part of an ongoing investigation into suspected membership in the terrorist organization ISIS. Police also reportedly raided unofficial mosques where supporters of ISIS, against which the Trump administration has declared war, may have been meeting. Among those arrested, at least four were from the Balkan country of Bosnia-Herzegovina, a former federal unit of Yugoslavia. They are suspected of being part of the so-called Bosnian Network, run by a preacher who received a 20-year sentence in ...
READ MORE
Kosovo: An evil little war (almost) all US candidates liked
Although the 2016 presidential election is still in the primaries phase, contenders have already brought up America’s failed foreign wars. Hillary Clinton is taking flak over Libya, and Donald Trump has irked the GOP by bringing up Iraq. But what of Kosovo? The US-led NATO operation that began on March 24, 1999 was launched under the “responsibility to protect” doctrine asserted by President Bill Clinton and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair. For 78 days, NATO targeted what was then the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia – which later split into Serbia and Montenegro – over alleged atrocities against ethnic Albanians in the ...
READ MORE
Coming home to roost: Kosovo sees return of locals who fought for Daesh
At least 120 natives of Kosovo have returned home during the last few years after taking part in the ongoing hostilities in Syria on the side of Daesh (ISIL), according to local police reports. Milovan Drecun, chairman of the Serbian parliamentary Committee on Kosovo-Metohija, told Sputnik that these former militants may establish ties with local political extremists, thus further exacerbating the current volatile situation in Pristina. He pointed out that ties already exist between the jihadists and certain Albanian organized crime groups, as well as former militants of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) – a terrorist group that was officially disbanded but still exists. "These ties were established back in the 1990s, after Osama ...
READ MORE
UN, France & US in Libya and Ivory Coast: Using violence and Islamic forces just like Kosovo
The current problems in Libya and Ivory Coast are complex and clearly the opposition has different aspirations.  After all, both sides are involved in a bloody conflict and the use of violence is being used by each faction in these divided nations.  Therefore, it appears that the “new democratic warriors” of peace and freedom carry guns and kill their enemies, just like their enemies would kill them. This article is not about defending the leaders of either nations and clearly the leader of Libya is known for being despotic and obsessed by political power.  Also, forces loyal to Gaddafi care little ...
READ MORE
Islamic State top dog from Kosovo returns to Europe with 400 jihadis
What could possibly go wrong? Refugees welcome! Not to allow these enemy combatants to return would be “Islamophobic”! “Disguised as refugees and able to cross borders without being identified: ISIS general who blew up a hostage with a rocket and decapitated another prisoner is ‘back in Europe with 400 soldiers’ after fleeing Syria,” by Julian Robinson, MailOnline, December 29, 2016: An ISIS general once pictured decapitating a prisoner is back in Europe with up to 400 of his most trusted soldiers after fleeing the war zone in Syria, it has been claimed. Ex-NATO soldier Lavdrim Muhaxheri and his men are among thousands who ...
READ MORE
Media literacy 101: Kosovo and Libya
The media never merely report the news. They manipulate and distort the news. They want to tell you what and how to think. Pursuant to this role, they routinely rewrite history. A striking instance of media rewriting of history is in the reporting on Kosovo. In the AP article “US Prosecutor to Probe Kosovo Organ Trafficking”, it is reported that the alleged atrocity occurred “during Kosovo’s war for independence from Serbia” in 1999. Everyone remembers that war as one to prevent genocide and ethnic cleansing, that it was “a humanitarian intervention”. But here it is now characterized and defined as a ...
READ MORE
Ethnic cleansing in Kosovo and the rights of the Serbian minority: Ten years after the “March Pogrom 2004”
This article deals with the question of political and human/minority rights in the region of Kosovo & Metohija ten years after the „March Pogrom 2004“ and fifteen years after the NATO’s military aggression on Serbia and Montenegro and occupation of the region. An importance of this research topic is in a fact that for the first time in the European history a terrorist-style and mafia-ruled (quasi)independent state was created by a full diplomatic, political, economic, military and financial sponsorship by the West under the umbrella of the NATO’s and the EU’s protective administration. The precedence of Kosovo’s self-proclaimed independence in ...
READ MORE
Kosovo history – Third part
For the Serbs as Christians, their loss of state independence and fall to the Ottoman Empire’s kind of theocratic state, was a terrible misfortune. With the advent of the Turks and establishment of their rule, the lands of Serbs were forcibly excluded from the circle of progressive European states wherein they occupied a prominent place precisely owing to the Byzantine civilization, which was enhanced by local qualities and strong influences of the neighboring Mediterranean states. Being Christians, the Serbs became second-class citizens in Islamic state. Apart from religious discrimination, which was evident in all spheres of everyday life, this status ...
READ MORE
The World According to ISIS
This article is excerpted from Fawaz A. Gerges’s forthcoming book, ISIS: A History. Although the spectacular surge of ISIS must be contextualized within the social and political circumstances that exist in Iraq and Syria and beyond, the group’s worldview and ideology should be taken equally seriously. Ideology is, after all, the superglue that binds Salafi-jihadists known as revolutionary religious activists or global jihadists of the ISIS variety to each other. The Salafi-jihadist movement emerged from an alliance between ultraconservative Saudi Salafism (or Wahhabism) and revolutionary Egyptian Islamism which was inspired by the Egyptian master theorist, Sayyid Qutb. The Afghan war against ...
READ MORE
Photo album: Kosovo in March 2010
Photo album: Kosovo & Metochia in March 2010 (197 authentic photos) Save
READ MORE
The shortened list of the Serb Christian Orthodox shrines of Kosovo-Metochia (13th-20th centuries)
ISIL International
The forgotten Orthodox Christians of Bosnia and Kosovo
A Short History of Kosovo-Metochia
Dusseldorf axe attacker: “Fatmir H,” Muslim Albanian from Kosovo
Islamic fundamentalism in the Balkans
Documentary film “Stolen Kosovo” (The Czech Republic)
Washington’s “humanitarian” war and the KLA’s crimes
Exporting Jihad: Bosnia and Kosovo
The Balkan Caliphate: Saudi power in Kosovo
Potential new EU member is jihad’s Trojan horse
Kosovo: An evil little war (almost) all US candidates liked
Coming home to roost: Kosovo sees return of locals who fought for Daesh
UN, France & US in Libya and Ivory Coast: Using violence and Islamic forces just like Kosovo
Islamic State top dog from Kosovo returns to Europe with 400 jihadis
Media literacy 101: Kosovo and Libya
Ethnic cleansing in Kosovo and the rights of the Serbian minority: Ten years after the “March Pogrom 2004”
Kosovo history – Third part
The World According to ISIS
Photo album: Kosovo in March 2010

Share

Categories: Islamic State of Kosovo

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

www.kosovo-metochia.org

  • Email
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • SHARE
  • YouTube
  • LinkedIn