Analysis 25 Mar 16

Montenegro Security Services on ISIS Alert

The Montenegrin government has drawn up a new national strategy to counter a “high risk” of violent extremism and deter would-be jihadists from leaving for Syria and Iraq.

Dusica Tomovic
Montenegrin Mirza Haklaj appeared with other jihadists in an ISIS video, he is believed to have died during bombing last year. Photo: YouTube July 2015

Montenegrin Muslims were dismayed when a video featuring an armed man calling for Montenegro’s Muslim population to join him in Syria or “kill the infidels in their homes” was shared on social networks last July.

“If you want honour, come here brothers… fear Allah, the call for the caliphate is something you must answer,” said an ISIS member, who was presented as Abu Mariam Al-Albani.

The man was later identified as Mirza Haklaj, a Montenegrin from the capital Podgorica. He was killed during a bomb blast last year in Syria. His wife and children were with him but their fate is unknown.

Fighter numbers

13 Montenegrin men are believed to have left the country to fight with ISIS or Al Nusra in Syria and Iraq

4 are known to have died in the conflicts

At least 6 are believed to have come from the Montenegrin Sandzak region

There are no official estimates for returnees or the number of women and children who have travelled to Syria and Iraq

 Source: 2015 National Security Agency report


The video was all the more shocking as violent Islamic extremism in Montenegro is rarely covered by the media or discussed by politicians. Not least because the number of Montenegrins known to have travelled to Syria and Iraq to fight with jihadi groups is relatively small.

An estimated 13 Montenegrins have fought with Islamic State, ISIS, and Al Qaeda-affiliate Al Nusra in Syria and Iraq, according to a report presented to parliament in October last year by the National Security Agency. Six are believed to be still fighting there and four are known to have been killed.

About 20 per cent of Montenegro’s roughly 620,000 population are Muslim, most are Sunni followers of the Hanafi tradition, widely regarded as highly tolerant with a long and deep-rooted history of co-existence with other faiths, including Orthodox and Catholic Christianity.

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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.