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News 30 Dec 15

Albania Charges Imam With Recruiting for ISIS

Almir Daci, the ISIS militant shown in June in a threating video, will be tried in absentia, while investigations into other Albanians now in Syria have been suspended.

Flamur Vezaj BIRN Tirana
Almir Daci | Photo: Youtube video.

Five months after a video showed him threatening Albanians on behalf of ISIS., Albania's serious crimes prosecution office has passed Almir Daci's file to the courts for trial.

The former imam from Pogradec in eastern Albania, who is now believed to be in territory held by ISIS, will be tried in absentia for advocating terrorism and for recruiting persons to conduct terrorist acts.

Daci, known also as Ebu Belkisa, is considered one of the most active Albanian militants in ISIS.

He has been under investigation since the beginning of 2014 together with 20 other Albanians who were allegedly involved in recruitment on behalf of ISIS.

In February 2015, the serious crimes prosecution office sent two other imams to court, Genci Balla and Bujar Hysa, who preached in mosques operating outside the control of the official Muslim Community on the outskirts of Tirana.

Alongside them, seven of their aides are also on trial. Prosecutors opened a separate investigation into others who are now believed to be in Syria, including Daci.

Apart from Daci, however, investigations into the others have now been suspended because it has been impossible to secure hard information about their activities.

Investigations into jihadist recruiters that are reported to be out of the country have been hampered by lack of official information about whether they are even still alive. 

A YouTube video released in June showing Daci is considered proof of his direct recent involvement in terrorism.

In the video, Daci and another militant from Kosovo threatened terrorist attacks against all those who do not embrace their cause.

Albanian prosecutors accuse Daci and the others of having recruited around 90 Albanians to fight in Syria. The mosques where these imams preached are thought to have been the main places where fighters were recruited.

Most Albanians are Muslims, although historically, hard-line Islam has had little traction among Albanians.

However, religious militants have made some progress in recent years and the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, ISRA, a think tank based in King's College, London, believes some 300 Albanian fighters - from Kosovo, Macedonia and Albania - have joined Jabhat al-Nusra or ISIS.

Jabhat al-Nusra, also known as the al-Nusra Front, is a branch of al-Qaeda fighting in Syria. ISIS - the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham - was founded in the early years of the Iraq war. It pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda in 2004, becoming known by that name in Iraq.

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