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Kosovo police arrest 40 for fighting in Iraq, Syria

Last Updated: Monday, August 11, 2014 - 18:26

Pristina: Kosovo police arrested 40 men on Monday on suspicion of having fought with Islamist insurgents in Syria and Iraq, a crackdown aimed at deterring recruitment of volunteer fighters, authorities in the small Balkan state said.

They said explosives, weapons and ammunition of various calibre were seized in the major police operation. Kosovo is an overwhelmingly ethnic Albanian country where the main religion is Islam, although lifestyles are largely secular.

The 40 men were being questioned on suspicion of engaging in acts against Kosovo`s constitutional order and endangering the safety and security of the state, a police statement said.

Local media said an 18-year-old man from eastern Kosovo was killed in fighting in Syria last week, raising the total number of Kosovo Albanians killed in fighting in Iraq and Syria to 16.

A Kosovo intelligence source who asked not to be identified said an estimated 100-200 citizens were believed to have gone to

Syria and Iraq for the purpose of combat so far.

"Those arrested are being questioned, and we are looking to arrest others not found at their homes," Kosovo police spokesman Baki Kelani said. He could not say many were still at large.

Many in Kosovo were shocked when pictures circulated on social media last month of Lavdrim Muhaxheri, a self-styled leader of Kosovo Albanians fighting with Islamic State militants, apparently decapitating a teenager in Iraq.

A Kosovo government statement on the arrests said:

"(Our) state ... will firmly defend civilised Euro-Atlantic values, individual freedom, secularism, constitutional and legal rights of all communities in Kosovo."

President Atifete Jahjaga, who has helped coordinate security agencies in moves against militants heading to Iraq and Syria, said Kosovo would never be a "shelter for extremism".

Kosovo`s parliament is expected to pass legislation soon banning citizens from joining foreign insurgencies, with a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison on conviction. 

A number of European countries including Britain, France and the Netherlands have begun cracking down on citizens, mainly of an Islamic immigrant background, going to join radical Islamist insurrections in Syria and Iraq.

They are concerned that such volunteers could eventually return to Europe battle-hardened, radicalised and posing security threats.

Kosovo gained independence from Serbia in 2008 after a bloody uprising in the late 1990s but widespread corruption and a lack of economic reform have hindered its development.

Will resist any move to topple government: Pakistan PM

Islamabad: Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif today criticised his political rivals for going ahead with their plans to hold anti-government protests and promised that he will resist any move to topple his government formed through people`s mandate.

Cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and Canada-returned anti-government cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri have announced to bring their thousands of supporters in the capital on Thursday to remove Sharif`s year-and-a-half old government.
Qadri yesterday announced that his `Revolution March` would go along with Khan`s `Freedom March` on August 14 to send the Sharif government home.

The fiery cleric is fighting for a "revolution" while Khan is protesting against alleged rigging in the last year polls.
Sharif, addressing the launch of the Vision 2025 programme here, criticised the timing of the rallies and said Qadri and Khan should have protested before the elections.

"The runaway from Canada should have participated in the 2013 general elections if he wanted to bring a revolution in Pakistan," he said about Qadri, who holds dual nationality.

Also attacking Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan, Sharif said he should have held his `Azadi March` during the general elections and not a year after the polls.

The Prime Minister, however, expressed readiness to address Khan`s concerns over alleged rigging of last year polls through talks. He said he was ready to meet him anywhere.

Sharif said he will resist any move to topple his government which was formed for five years through the mandate of the people.

Promising "to defend democracy", he lamented that some politicians have not learnt from the past when the country faced military rulers.

First Published: Monday, August 11, 2014 - 18:26
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