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News 08 Jun 17

Kosovo ISIS Leader Killed, Media Reports

Kosovo-born Lavdim Muhaxheri, also known as Abu Abdullah al Kosova, who became notorious after being pictured beheading a prisoner, is reported to have been killed by a US drone strike in Syria.

Fatjona Mejdini BIRN Tirana
Lavdim Muhaxheri. Photo: ISIS propaganda video

The leader of Kosovo Albanian foreign fighters for ISIS, Lavdim Muhaxheri, was reported dead by local media in the early hours of Thursday.

Media in Albania and Kosovo reported that his brother and friends posted news of his death on Facebook, and a US drone strike on ISIS-controlled territories in Syria was reported to have killed him.

"My brother fell as shahid [martyr] for Allah....We hope Allah has accepted him....amid good people," his brother Bajram Muhaxheri’s Facebook post said, according to media reports.

However, police in Pristina have not yet confirmed the killing of Muhaxheri.

Originally from Kacanik in Kosovo, Muhaxheri become internationally infamous in 2014 after pictures of him beheading a young man were made public.

He also attracted media attention because before he joined ISIS, he worked until 2010 for NATO’s Kosovo force KFOR, leading a peace-support operation at Camp Bondsteel in Ferizaj.

He was later promoted to work at a NATO training camp in Afghanistan.

Muhaxheri started to become radicalised around 2012 in his hometown Kacanik and the same year was reported to have made his first trip to Syria as a fighter.

In 2013, he took a command position within ISIS, and was considered a recruiter of Kosovo Albanians, as well inspiring others in Macedonia and Albania.

His name hit the headlines again in November 2016, when a major operation by police in Kosovo and Albania arrested 19 people suspected of planning to carry out terrorist attacks against Israeli footballers playing a World Cup qualifying match with Albania in Shkodra.

Muhaxheri was alleged to have been the organiser of the plot.

Previously he has released videos on social media calling on Albanians in Kosovo, Macedonia and Albania to join ISIS.

Reports say around 300 Kosovo Albanians have joined ISIS since the beginning of the conflict in Syria in 2011, while around 150 others have been reported to have travelled from Albania to take part in the fighting.

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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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