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domingo, 19 de octubre de 2014



The One Muslim Country That Loves America Is Developing an Extremist Problem

Kosovars are traveling to the Middle East to fight the same U.S.-led forces that once helped secure their country’s freedom.


PRISTINA, Kosovo — Musli Musliu's Facebook page looks much like any other 20-something's profile: He posts selfies along with videos uploaded from YouTube, and he has an app for playing Texas Hold 'Em with his friends. But his profile is not actually one of a typical millennial. The videos Musli posts call for jihad, urging his friends to join the fight against the enemies of Islam. One photo shows a man with a balaclava covering his face. In another, a man holds an assault rifle with a bullet belt wrapped like a scarf around his nec

His family says that the photos were likely taken in the Middle East, where Musli and his brother, Valon, both natives of Kosovo, traveled to join militant groups. In April, Musli called home to inform his family that Valon had been killed during the Islamic State's campaign in Fallujah. Valon, who would have been 22 now, studied in a madrasa, or Islamic high school, in Kosovo's capital, Pristina, before moving to Egypt to study at Al-Azhar University. (The family did not discuss Musli's background.) Eight months after leaving for the Middle East, Valon came home to visit his family, who tried to talk him out of going back.
"We discussed this with him, and so did our uncles," Selman, another brother, said in an interview in his village of Tushile, about 30 miles from Pristina. "We explained to him that there are manipulative people out there, and that it is usually the innocent ones who suffer."
The family has not received any notification of Musli's death, but they are nervous, because as of late September, they had not heard from him in three months.
Valon and Musli are two of the 150 Kosovo Albanians -- the ethnic majority in the Balkan country of nearly 2 million, where Islam is the dominant religion -- who, according to the Kosovo officials, have traveled to Iraq or Syria to fight alongside various groups. Forty have reportedly died. Fifteen years ago, Kosovo was embroiled in its own war: Led by the United States, NATO waged a bombing campaign that paved the way for Kosovo to declare independence from Serbia in 2008.
"Though he did not explicitly order people to take up arms," says local journalist Artan Haraqija, who has received death threats for his reports about the Islamic community in Kosovo, "to me [it] is a clear call for anyone to join the fighters in Syria."From the start, this concern was focused on mosques and, before long, the worry became that some religious leaders might be influencing Kosovars to go fight in Syria. In 2012, for example, Enes Goga, a Kosovar imam, delivered a fiery sermon about Syria, with quotes from the Prophet Muhammed. "I command you to go to the Sham lands because it's a chosen land from Allah and in that land live all the great believers of Allah," Goga said, referencing Muhammed. "Allah's angels have spread their wings above the lands of Sham."
Names began emerging around the same time: In September 2012, a Kosovar named Naman Demolli, who had served in the guerilla Kosovo Liberation Army in the war against Serbia, died in Syria. Later, in March 2014, a German-born Kosovar, Blerim Heta, who went to fight with extremist rebels in Syria in August 2013, allegedly killed 52 people in a suicide attack in Baghdad, where he was known as Abu Al Khabab Kosovo, according to the news portal Balkan Insight.
In June 2014, footage appeared online of Lavdrim Muhaxheri, a Kosovo Albanian fighting with the Islamic State, giving an impassioned speech in Arabic before a cheering crowd in what is purported to be Fallujah. He vowed to conquer Jerusalem, Rome, and Andalusia before ripping up his Kosovo passport and piercing it with a saber. The following month, Muhaxheri uploaded gruesome images on Facebook allegedly depicting him preparing to decapitate a Syrian teenager. Another photo showed him holding the severed head.
In September, the U.S. government included Muhaxheri, who for a time was thought to be dead, on its list of "specially designated global terrorists," a distinction that comes with financial sanctions. Muhaxheri reportedly has a history with Americans: He once worked at the U.S. military base in Kosovo, Camp Bondsteel, where 800 American service members are deployed on active duty. He later worked as a contractor for two years in Afghanistan, according to local media reports.
Many Muslim leaders have been outspoken in denouncing those who have joined extremist groups in the Middle East. The Kosovo Islamic Community, an independent religious organization, has called for Kosovar fighters in Syria "to go back to their families and the country as soon as possible." The organization has also criticized groups that have recruited in Kosovo.
Meanwhile, the government, which remains intensely loyal to Western countries, has sought to weed out alleged supporters of radical groups. In an op-ed in the Guardian on Sept. 30, Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci vowed to "crush any cells that believe, wrongfully, that they can find cover in Kosovo." 

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