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News 31 Jul 14

Jihadist's Beheading Photos Shock Kosovo

Photographs posted by a Kosovo Albanian jihadist of him allegedly beheading a young soldier in Syria have sparked outrage in Kosovo and Albania. 

Besar Likmeta, Nektar Zogjani BIRN Tirana, Pristina

The President of Kosovo, Atifete Jahjaga, on Thursday met security chiefs to discuss horrifying photographs posted on Facebook of a Kosovo Albanian militant allegedly beheading a captive soldier in Syria.

Security bodies were tasked with “treating this threat to the security of Kosovo as as priority.

“It is our responsibility as institutions and as a society to condemn these ugly phenomena.  We must distance ourselves from these brutal acts of criminals, and we must denounce and treat them as such,” she said.

The gruesome photographs are the work of Lavdrim Muhaxheri, a Kosovo Albanian fighter with the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant, ISIL.

The photographs have been merged together in a collage, with the inscription ‘Allahu ekber’ (God is Great).

Muhaxheri has featured repeatedly in ISIS propaganda as the leader of Albanian fighters within the Islamist militant group.

Balkan Insight cannot verify the authenticity of the photographs.

However, its publication in the local media has drawn strong condemnation from politicians and the public alike.

In a statement on Facebook, the head of the Democratic League of Kosovo and former mayor of Pristina, Isa Mustafa, accused Muhaxheri of spreading religious hatred.

“Religion is being manifested through uniforms and beards, which don’t resemble our citizens, and individuals who, instead of a mission of love for humanity and belief in God, are sowing religious hatred by killing and beheading people and calling on Allah,” Mustafa wrote.

Mustafa said it was not enough for people to distance themselves "from individuals and their dreadful acts"; consorted effort was needed to stop them.

The Minister of Interior, Bajram Rexhepi, said that there was no difference between "Muhaxheri and a beast.

“He must have deep psychological disorders,” Rexhepi said. "We have launched an international arrest warrant,” he added.

Dozens of commenter’s have also strongly condemned Muhaxheri on his Facebook page, calling him an enemy of Islam, and a terrorist.

In a follow-up post, Muhaxheri says that hostile commentators "don’t know what happened", and calls on God to lay a curse on them.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Levant, ISIL, was founded in the early years of the Iraq war. It pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda in 2004, becoming known as Al-Qaeda in Iraq.

On June 29, the militant group shortened its name to “The Islamic State”, underlining global ambitions that extend well beyond the geographical area it currently controls.

The International Center for the Study of Radicalization, ISRA, a think tank based in King's College, London, believes that some 300 Albanian fighters, from Kosovo, Macedonia and Albania, have joined groups linked to al-Qaeda in Syria, including Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS.

The Albanian authorities in March arrested eight people, including two radical imams, suspected of recruiting Albanian jihadists to join militant groups in Syria. A number of suspected recruiters have been arrested also in Kosovo.

In other Albanian-related incidents in the Middle East, a man from Ferizaj, in Kosovo, was reportedly behind a horrific suicide bombing in Iraq that killed at least 25 people.

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Background

Western Balkans on Alert Over ISIS Threat

Countries in the region have raised security levels and introduced new precautions to counter the threat of terrorist attacks by Islamic State.

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