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News 01 Feb 16

Kosovo Gunmen Arrested Near Serb Monastery

Four Kosovo citizens were arrested near the Visoki Decani Serbian Orthodox monastery for illegal possession of firearms, causing clerics to raise fears of a potential militant attack.

Ervin Qafmolla, Kaltrina Rexhepi
The Visoki Decani monastery | Photo: Visoki Decani monastery

Kosovo police were investigating on Monday after the four armed suspects were detained near the monastery near the town of Decan/Decani in western Kosovo on Saturday night.

Police said they were following the suspects’ vehicle for some time and after searching it, they found an AK assault rifle, a pistol and some ammunition.

They said the four suspects were being charged with the illegal possession of firearms.

The Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Raska and Prizren said however that the suspects were “armed Islamists”.

Sava Janjic, the abbot of the Visoki Decani monastery, condemned the police for not treating the incident as terrorism-related.

“The Kosovo police statement is a pathetic downplaying of a possible serious incident and an insult to common sense,” Janjic said.

He also said that the incident was yet another indication that the presence of NATO KFOR troops near the monastery was highly important.

Those arrested are expected to face formal charges within the next 48 hours.

In another incident on Friday, more than two kilogrammes of explosives were found near a mosque in Drenas in central Kosovo while about 500 worshipers were attending prayers.

According to police, who are still investigating the case, the TNT was not wired to any detonating device and could not have caused an explosion.

Osman Musliu, the imam of the mosque, told BIRN that he had no idea who might have placed the explosives near the mosque.

“Maybe it was to scare people away from faith, maybe some secret services, maybe an extremist attack, who knows?” Musliu said.

The imam has on several occasions voiced criticism of extremists, the government and the country’s Islamic Community body.

“I have often made statements about these [groups and institutions], but this [incident] will not stop me from raising my voice, because I am Mullah Osman,” he said.

It is unclear whether there is any connection between the Decan/Decani and Drenas cases.

In November 2015, Prime Minister Isa Mustafa and security officials announced the introduction of “exceptional measures” in response to “real risks associated with terrorism”.

More than 50 terror suspects are currently being tried in separate cases in the country.

More than 350 fighters from Kosovo have reportedly joined the ranks of ISIS and Al Nusra in Syria and Iraq.

On Saturday, a new ISIS video with Albanian subtitles showed images of the Paris terror attacks and warned of new ones, without specifying the targets.

“We are in your houses and we are ready to slay you,” a voice in the video said.

It had the title “Kill Them Wherever You Find Them”.

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