The Macedonian Tendency: Islamic Exremists are Organizing in the Balkans

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Islamic Exremists are Organizing in the Balkans

By David Edenden - This is a great article about al Qaeda in the Balkans. In the past Macedonians and Serbs have been running around "with their hair on fire" but no one in Washington seemed to listen. Now they are listening.

Plot illustrates Balkans' role as Islamist foothold --
The Washington Times: "

U.S. officials said intelligence reports from the Balkans have identified a support structure for several terrorist groups, including al Qaeda, among the Muslim communities in Albania and in the former Yugoslavia, including Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo and Macedonia.

"When it comes to extremists, we're talking about very, very small pockets in Albania, as well as among the ethnic Albanian populations in Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia and other parts of the Balkans," said one official with access to intelligence reports.

The official pointed out that the Albanian government has been supportive of U.S. efforts to counter Islamic terrorist activities, including curbing logistics and financial aid, and working to prevent terrorists from receiving training and weapons.

But a Congressional Research Service report produced in 2005 said instability in Albania during the 1990s gave al Qaeda a "foothold" there.

"Poor internal security, lax border controls, and high rates of crime produced an environment conducive to terrorist activity," said the report by CRS specialist Steven Woehrel. "Some foreign Islamic extremists used Albania as a safe haven and gained Albanian citizenship."
Balkan Muslims also have been targets of al Qaeda recruitment efforts because they have an easier time blending in or evading U.S. and European security measures and border controls, which often are geared to identifying Middle Eastern extremists.

The State Department's latest annual report on international terrorism said the Albanian government has taken steps to stop terrorism financing but noted that "government and police forces faced substantial challenges to fully enforce border security and combat organized crime and corruption."

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