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Islamic State touts jihadists from the Balkans

The Islamic State released a new English-language video that focuses on jihadists from the Balkans who are fighting in Iraq and Syria. Jihadists from Bosnia, Albania, and Kosovo, as well as some of their families, are featured in the propaganda film.

The presence of Balkan fighters in Syria has been recorded since 2013. They have joined both al Qaeda's official branch in Syria, the Al Nusrah Front, and the Islamic State.

The new video, which was released by Al Hayat Media, begins with an unidentified narrator who seems to be the same one that was featured in the infamous "Flames of War" propaganda film released last year. The narrator gives a brief overview of the history of the Balkans. After this, several fighters appear on the screen in which the narrator says, "The ranks of the Khilafah [caliphate] that are blessed with muhajireen (immigrants) from around the world, are bolstered by our brothers from the Balkans." The title of the video, "Honor is in Jihad," is then seen as the narrator explains how these fighters will bring the Balkans "out of darkness and into the light."

A fighter identified as "Abu Jihad al Bosni" then speaks to the camera. "We also want either with good deeds, or by force, to bring our people out from the darkness and into the light," he says. Other fighters discuss how jihadists from the Balkans should travel to Syria and join the Islamic State.

Another fighter, identified as "Salahuddin al Bosni," says to the camera, "Many of you back there are always complaining…Well here is your chance now. Make hijrah (migration). If it is that hard for you and you want it so much, then make Hijrah."

In the video, the Islamic State also presents its version of what happened during the UN and NATO intervention in Bosnia in the early 1990's. The narrator claims that after the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina was accepted into the UN, Slobodan Milosevic and Ratko Mladic, who were both charged with war crimes, "led the onslaught of the kuffar (unbelievers)." The narrator then accuses the "Crusaders," referring to the UN and NATO forces, of attempting to "eradicate" Islam from the Balkans and of killing "thousands upon thousands" of Muslims. Another Bosnian fighter appears on screen to elaborate on this story before the narrator exclaims that the Bosnian mujahideen and foreign fighters were able to "repel the Crusaders."

A fighter identified as Abu Muhammad al Bosni then tries to incite Bosnian Muslims into fighting the Bosnian government. "If you as a people, as a big group, stand against that filthy government, you can crush them." An Albanian fighter appears with his wife and child and they walk through Islamic State-held territory while telling other Albanians to "come taste the sweetness of faith in the Khilafa."

A Kosovar fighter threatens the governments of Kosovo, Albania, and Macedonia, saying that "black days are coming to you."

"You will be terrorized," he continues, "We will put fear in you…We will do to you what we have done to the Rawafid (rejectors) in Iraq." The video then ends with an elderly Bosnian fighter again calling on other Balkan fighters to join the Islamic State.

The Islamic State routinely issues videos focusing on a particular nationality or nationalities in an attempt to recruit more fighters or to show its international reach. Just two days ago, the Islamic State released a video highlighting an 80-year old Chinese Uighur fighter within its ranks. Another recent video showed Algerian fighters in Damascus congratulating an Algerian group on pledging allegiance to the Islamic State and calling on more to do so. A video released last week showed the commander of Tajikistan's elite police force who defected to the jihadist group.

The Islamic State has produced similar videos for fighters from Somalia, Yemen, France, Bahrain, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Mali, Libya, Tunisia, and many other countries. Additionally, the group also regularly showcases foreign suicide bombers conducting attacks in Syria and Iraq. For instance, two French suicide bombers were used in an assault on Haditha, while many foreign suicide bombers were used in Ramadi. The new video featuring the Balkan fighters is just the latest propaganda effort by the Islamic State to highlight its many foreign fighters and incite others to join it.

[Source: By Caleb Weiss, The Long War Journal, NJ, 05Jun15]

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