Montenegro’s Special Prosecution for Organised Crime has begun probes of several Montenegrin citizens who reportedly fought in the Middle East or financed the sending of fighters to conflict zone, BIRN has learned.
According to the government documents, which BIRN has seen, and sources from the prosecution, the special prosecutor is conducting preliminary investigations into three new cases.
The same sources said the Montenegrin authorities are probing at least six alleged fighters and recruiters.
BIRN contacted the special prosecutor for organised crime but did not receive a response by the time of publication.
In January, the Higher Court in Podgorica for the first time convicted a Montenegrin citizen of having fought in Syria alongside ISIS.
Hamid Beharovic, 39, from the coastal town of Ulcinj, was found guilty of having fought for ISIS between April 2015 and May 2016, and sentenced to six months in jail.
According to the latest Europen Commission report on Montenegro, released last month, there is evidence of approximately 23 of the country’s nationals, including five women and three children, departing for the conflict zone in Syria since it started.
Out of that number, six have reportedly died, while 10 returned to Montenegro.
The recent EU progress report on Serbia said the Belgrade authorities have evidence of around 49 Serbian citizens becoming foreign terrorist fighters, and ten returning from the conflict zone.
The EU’s progress report on Bosnia and Herzegovina meanwhile quoted the state’s official data that estimates that 181 men, 61 women and 81 children with Bosnian citizenship are believed to have travelled to Syria and Iraq from Bosnia and Herzegovina and from the diaspora between 2012 and 2016.
But it also said that the Bosnian authorities’ efforts have contributed to stopping the country’s citizens from travelling to foreign battlefields since 2015.
“Cells of radicalisation have been identified in certain locations in the country [Bosnia], in particular in the Wahhabi communities,” the EU report said.
In Macedonia, it is estimated that around 155 people have left for the conflict zones in Syria and Iraq since 2012 – although only two of them last year.
The 2018 EU progress report said that around 80 have since returned to the country, with around 30 still in Syria and another 30 having been killed there. The rest are believed to have returned to other countries, as they have dual citizenships.
Between 2012 and 2015, approximately 144 Albanian citizens travelled to Syria and Iraq to join the armed conflicts there.
The EU progress report on Albania said that “no Albanians are reported to have left the country to become foreign fighters since 2015”.
Some 45 fighters have returned, 26 died and 73 remain on the battlefield, it added.
For Kosovo, the EU report estimates that the number of its citizens who have engaged in the conflicts in Syria or Iraq has been steadily decreasing, and in 2017 there were no new reported cases.
Between 2012 and 2016, an estimated 359 Kosovo citizens - 255 men, 49 women and 55 children - left for conflict zones in the Middle East, mostly as fighters.
According to the EU report, 133 Kosovo citizens have returned from Syria or Iraq, 74 died there and 195 remain.