Image by AgronBeqiri
In the last 10 years, at least 120 Albanians have joined the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group and more than 20 of them have been killed in battle, mainly in Syria. The announcement was made public by Klejda Ngjela of the Albanian Helsinki Committee, at the “Civil Society Against Violent Extremism” forum organized at the European Union Center in Shkodra.
The problem of Albanians joining the Islamic State army has increased in recent years. Those making the trip have been mostly poor people who were attracted with promises of large sums of money and a better life. Some of the Albanians joining ISIS have left Albania with their families in tow. Most recruits were from the areas of Librazhd, Pogradec and Elbasan.
Those Albanians becoming part of the terrorist regime have made public statements against the Albanian state, threatening all Albanians with possible revenge, as a punishment for Albanian atheists. In one speech, by a man with the name Al Alban, made it clear that black days are coming for Albania and Albanians, who will be afraid to walk along the streets, will be afraid to work in their offices, and will be frightened and terrified even in their homes. The threat was made on the YouTube channel “AL hayat media center.”
Credible sources say that some of the families of dead ISIS recruits have remained in Syria without having the opportunity to return. Albanian ISIS soldiers are only paid $50 a month, a sum that is much lower than the salary they were promised. There have also been cases when certain Albanian imams have supported the Islamic State, calling it legally legitimate. The increasing number of Albanians joining ISIS has forced Albania to adopt a national strategy in combating extremism; last year Albania adopted a law prohibiting citizens from participating in foreign armies. Violations can lead to imprisonment for a period of 15 years.
According to foreign studies, the Balkans are a problematic area in terms of membership in the Islamic State. In recent years, a large number of Kosovars have joined ISIS, thanks to the so-called ‘preachers of extremism’. In a publication by the Kosovo Institute for Policy Research and Development (KIPRED), it is reported that for joining terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq, some Kosovo citizens have used a neighboring country as a departure point, mainly Montenegro. The continuing departure of Kosovars to the war zone while officials of Kosovo institutions state that “no Kosovar has ever traveled to the war zone” highlights the gap between reality and the Kosovo Intelligence Agency (AKI), and the Kosovo Police, stated the report. It also states that people who have joined ISIS have done so at a time when security services have been assuring that no more people are heading to Syria and Iraq.