Kosovo authorities have arrested two citizens for allegedly trying to join extremist groups in Syria and Iraq, sources reported. A court in Kosovo's capital, Pristina, charged them with attempting to join the so-called Islamic groups in armed conflict and put them under a one-month arrest order on Sunday.
A government statement said the two suspects, identified only as A.D. and K.B, were trying to cross into Syria from Turkey when they were seized by Turkish security forces. They were returned to Kosovo from Istanbul. They face up to 15 years in prison if they are convicted.
Authorities say about 70 Kosovo citizens are believed to be fighting with extremist groups in Syria and Iraq.
In 2016, the New York Times reported that Kosovo, the predominantly Muslim land severed from Serbia by US and NATO military intervention, was turned into a hotbed of radical extremism and a fertile recruiting ground for terrorists owing to money pumped into it by Gulf kingdoms.
According to a report, in a land of 1.8 million, 314 Kosovars were identified by the police between 2014 and 2016 as IS recruits.
Local authorities and moderate imams blame the problem on a network of extremist clerics backed by money coming from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and other Arab nations. Funded through a shady network of private donations, mercurial charities and Islamic scholarship programs, they spread the brand of misled Islam called Wahhabism, a hardline sect to which Saudi Arabia adheres.
Saudi diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks in 2015 reveal a system of funding for mosques, Islamic centers and Saudi-trained clerics that spans Asia, Africa and Europe.
According to unidentified “intelligence sources,” many of the extremist fighters killed in Syria are Albanians from Kosovo, Albania, Macedonia and Serbia (Preševo valley).