Western Balkan states are source of terrorist fighters in Syria and Iraq
Monitoring Desk: The western Balkan states are a significant source of foreign terrorist fighters going to Syria and Iraq.
This was indicated by Hoyt Yee, the deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs in his statement before the US House Foreign Affairs Committee.
In his statement he mentioned that Bosnia Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia and Albania are notable source countries for sending terrorists to Syria and Iraq.
“There is no one-size-fits-all profile of a foreign terrorist fighter from the western Balkans. Individuals are being radicalized and motivated to fight in Syria and Iraq by a number of factors. Economic stagnation and lack of employment options are factors. This is compounded by skepticism of citizens about their governments. The western Balkan countries are taking this threat very seriously – Albania, Bosnia Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia have all passed legislation criminalizing foreign fighters and support for them. The U.S. is providing significant assistance through technical advice, training in capacity building in terrorism cases and legislative strengthening. In addition, the U.S. has recently placed a U.S. prosecutor in the Embassy in Tirana as a Counterterrorism Resident Legal Adviser with regional responsibilities”, he added.
He was of the view that Albania, Bosnia Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Serbia have arrested suspected foreign fighters and are in the process of investigating and prosecuting them. The U.S. is providing case based mentoring in Albania, Bosnia Herzegovina and Kosovo to assist investigators and prosecutors to effectively prosecute their cases.
It may be mentioned that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have been providers of religious teachers to Albania, Bosnia Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Serbia after the fall of former USSR and Salafi form of Islam is the majority sect of Islam in these countries. According to rough statistics over 30% of religious teachers were trained in Pakistan by Saudi scholars and sent to these countries for teaching right after collapse of USSR while rest of 70% came directly Middle East to Albania, Bosnia Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Serbia. Salafi Islam is the biggest source of generating radical Islamists who reportedly believe in all sort of terrorism to promote their form of Islam all over the world.