Abstract: Drawing upon the first author’s position within the Kosovo Security Council Secretariat and utilizing internal government reports and statistics, this article provides an overview of the Kosovan experience dealing with returnee ‘foreign fighters’ from Syria and Iraq. So far, at least five returnees have been involved in planning domestic attacks, thus reaffirming academic analyses and recent reports suggesting that it is a minority of returnees who present an immediate terrorist threat. Nevertheless, a small number of returnees remain highly radicalized and are both willing and determined to attack at home. The Kosovan approach to managing this risk is discussed, to include challenges and lessons learned.

As of mid-2019, there are still around 2,000 alleged foreign fighters and close to 14,000 foreign women and children being held in overcrowded detention camps in Syria.1 Naturally, there is widespread concern that these individuals may present a significant threat to national security. Consequently, many countries—most notably those in Western Europe—have been reluctant to bring their citizens home and appear to be delaying the repatriation process as long as possible. In contrast to this, others, including Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkey, and Kosovo, have taken a more proactive approach in facilitating the return of large numbers of mostly women and children.2

Drawing upon the first author’s position on the Kosovo Security Council Secretariat, which grants him unfettered access to government officials and returned foreign fighters and their families alike, this article seeks to shed light on the Kosovan experience dealing with returnees from Syria and Iraq. The article begins with a brief overview of Kosovar foreign fighter activities, followed by an examination of those who returned home between 2013 and 2018, and those who were repatriated in April of this year. In the final section, the discussion focuses on challenges and lessons learned from trying to manage the risk associated with these individuals.

The Foreign Fighters
Between 2012 and 2015 a total of 355 Kosovars—consisting of 256 men, 52 women, and 47 children—are believed to have traveled to Syria and Iraq.a (See Table 1.) This is one of the highest per capita rates of ‘foreign fighter’ outflowsb anywhere in the world. Forty-five percent of these individuals left Kosovo before the Islamic State declared its caliphate in June 2014. To begin with, they joined the Free Syrian Army, Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham, or Kataib al-Muhajirin and were largely focused on the overthrow of Assad.3 However, the majority of those who stayed subsequently transitioned to the Islamic State. Those who traveled after the declaration of the caliphate (which, along with an increasing amount of jihadi propaganda, was translated into Albanian) mostly joined the Islamic State directly.


By far, the most prominent Kosovar to join the fight in Syria was Lavdrim Muhaxheri, who is previously said to have worked at NATO bases in Kosovo and Afghanistan before radicalizing and traveling to the warzone in 2012.5 Muhaxheri first stepped into the spotlight in October 2013 after appearing in an Islamic State recruitment video posted on YouTube in which he called on Albanian Muslims to join the fight against Assad and other “infidels.”6 He went on to appear in grisly execution videos and became the leader of a group of Albanian Islamic State fighters, while maintaining a fairly prolific presence on social media.7 Together with another high-profile Islamic State leader from Kosovo named Ridvan Haqifi, Muhaxheri played an important role in promoting the Islamic State in the Balkans and facilitating travel to Syria.8

Not content with encouraging others to follow in their footsteps, Muhaxheri and Haqifi turned their attention to inciting attacks at home. In June 2015, Haqifi appeared in an Islamic State video in which he warned that “black days” were coming to Kosovo. “You will be frightened and terrified in your dreams as you sleep,” he declared. “We will kill you with the permission of Allah. We will come with explosive belts.”9 The following year, police arrested 19 individuals on suspicion of planning attacks against targets in Kosovo, as well as a soccer match between Albania and Israel that was scheduled to take place in the city of Shkodër, northwest Albania, in November 2016. It soon transpired that the group, which was in possession of more than 2.5 kilograms of explosives, was being jointly coordinated from afar by Muhaxheri and Haqifi.10 Both men are now believed to be dead,11 but thanks to their seniority and prominence both as instigators and facilitators they surely left an indelible mark on the foreign fighter phenomenon in Kosovo. In particular, by going beyond merely issuing threats to actually orchestrating a major attack plot, they helped transform it from a movement that initially was very much externally focused to one that also presented a significant threat at home.

The Returnees (2013–2018)
By 2018, 132 Kosovars who went to Syria (37% of the total) had returned home, consisting of 120 men, six women, and six children. The majority of this cohort made their way back from Syria prior to 2015, with only a handful returning in 2016 and 2018, respectively (thus marking the end of the first wave of returnees).c Although authorities in Kosovo have chosen not to prosecute women or children, most of the adult males (71% of those who returned by 2018) have been charged, convicted, and imprisoned on terrorism-related offenses (more on this later).d

Returnees have displayed a range of different attitudes toward authorities, along with varying levels of continued commitment to jihadi groups and ideological concepts (including acceptable use of violence against ‘enemies’ of Islam, and the relative importance attached to establishing a ‘true’ Islamic State). Many appear to be genuinely disillusioned and repentant, particularly those who returned home during the early stages of the conflict in Syria and Iraq. Albert Berisha, for example, went to Syria in October 2013. There, he came into contact with Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State before joining with Ahrar al-Sham but quickly became disillusioned by widespread in-fighting within the Syrian opposition and returned home after just nine days. Although convicted in Kosovo for membership in a terrorist organization, he insists this was never his intention and together with another Kosovar returnee named Liridon Kabashi, he established the Institute for Integration, Security and Deradicalization (INSID), an NGO dedicated to the rehabilitation and reintegration of former foreign fighters.12 However, regardless of their views on groups like the Islamic State, few returnees appear to accept that their actions should be punishable under law. As one returnee remarked, “I went there [to Syria] for purely humanitarian reasons. I wanted to help people and contribute with my warfare experience. That’s not a crime.”13 Similarly, many believe that being imprisoned is an added hindrance to their (future) reintegration.14 Accordingly, there is considerable resentment of the government of Kosovo.

More concerning still are those who continue to adhere to violent, extremist ideologies and have adopted an overtly hostile stance toward prison authorities and the state. ‘Abu Albani,’ who first traveled to Syria in 2013 while still in his early twenties, refused to cooperate with the deradicalization program in prison, and appeared to strengthen his commitment to the Islamic State, despite having become disillusioned with them while in Syria. When interviewed several months after his release, he remained deeply resentful of the government of Kosovo (even though it helped him to get a job) and was also openly supportive of terrorism and violence as a means to achieve a “true” Islamic State.15

Of course, showing signs of radicalization and actually following through on such sentiments are two different things. Nevertheless (as indicated in Table 1), at least five returnees so far have been accused of planning attacks. In November 2013, police arrested a total of six individuals in Pristina and Gjilan on suspicion of planning domestic attacks. Reportedly linked to Jabhat al-Nusra, two members of the group, Ardian Mehmeti and Genc Selimi, had recently returned from fighting in Syria.16 Worryingly, the men were in possession of a sniper rifle, handguns, and explosive-making material and were in the process of trying to acquire additional weapons from undercover police officers at the time of their arrest.17 The leader of the group, Mehmeti, was eventually convicted and sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment, while Selimi—who was the only member of the group convicted of an additional charge of inciting hatred and disunity—received a term of four years and six months.18

In a second case uncovered in July 2015, counterterrorism police arrested a group of five men in possession of a Kalashnikov rifle, military uniforms, masks, and an Islamic State flag near Badovc Lake in the Gollak mountains, not far from the nation’s capital.19 Again, two of those arrested had formerly fought in Syria. Besnik Latifi had been there twice, returning most recently in April 2014, while Gazmend Halili had returned to Kosovo a month later.20 Because Badovc Lake is one of the main sources of drinking water for Pristina, it was initially thought that the men had been planning to poison the city’s water supply or perhaps destroy the dam. Although prosecutors soon realized that there was no evidence to support this particular theory, the group was still initially convicted of plotting domestic attacks.21 Just six weeks prior to the group being arrested, Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had called on Muslims to either “migrate to the Islamic State or fight in his land wherever that may be.”22 In court, it was shown that the men were planning to record a video declaring an oath of allegiance to al-Baghdadi, in preparation for which they had written a script swearing “obedience and adherence… accepting every sacrifice.”23 Ultimately, this was all that could be proven, and following a retrial, the suspects were sentenced to between three-and-a-half and four-and-a-half years in prison for “attempted incitement for terrorist acts.”24 Despite being unable to prove more serious allegations in a court of law, prosecutors remain convinced that attacks of some sort were in the pipeline.25

The third and final case—the aforementioned plot to attack international targets in Kosovo and a soccer match between Albania and Israel—provides the clearest example of attack planning by returnee foreign fighters in Kosovo to date. As already noted, the plot was orchestrated from overseas by Muhaxheri and Haqifi using Telegram. Muhaxheri had even sent €1,350 to help finance the operation.26 Additionally, at least one and possibly two members of the group in Kosovo were also veterans of the war in Syria. Lulzim Gashi initially admitted that he had been there, and although he later retracted this, according to the prosecution, he had fought for Jabhat al-Nusra for a period of two weeks.27 Furthermore, although it has not been proven in court, Kosovar authorities suspect that the leader of the group, Visar Ibishi—who was the key point of contact for Muhaxheri—had likewise been to Syria.28 In recognition of their lead roles, a judge in Pristina sentenced Ibishi to 10 years in prison, while Gashi was jailed for six.29 Their co-defendants received sentences of between one-and-a-half and five years, while a final member of the group was merely fined.30

Fortunately, none of these plots came to fruition. They nevertheless demonstrate that a small number of returnees remain highly radicalized and are both willing and determined to attack either at home and/or the Balkan region. In the case of Latifi and Halili, both men had been arrested shortly after returning to Kosovo but were released due to lack of evidence and were clearly undeterred by this experience.31 It was also more than a year after their return that the conspiracy developed and was uncovered (largely, it seems by chance), thus demonstrating that threats may take time to unfold and may not be immediately detectable. It is also noteworthy that the handful of returnees who engaged in domestic attack plots appear to have had considerable recruitment power and acted as leaders, bringing with them important skills as well as connections to Islamic State cadres overseas.

Of course, five or six individuals from 124 (adult male) returnees represents less than five percent of the total number of foreign fighters who spent time in Syria and Iraq and returned to Kosovo thus far. According to the estimation of the first author of this article (who is responsible for monitoring the implementation of Kosovo’s National Strategy on Prevention of Violent Extremism and Radicalisation Leading to Terrorism), approximately 87% of male returnees are low risk, nine percent are medium, and four percent are high.e If this is accurate, it is indeed only a small minority of returnees who are likely to plan and attempt attacks. Nevertheless, the fallout from even one successful terror attack conducted in Kosovo by a local foreign fighter who traveled to Syria and/or Iraq would be highly significant, especially given that Kosovo has not experienced this type of event before. Moreover, it is extremely difficult to identify which specific individuals are most likely to become violent and when they might act.

The Repatriated (April 2019)
Very few foreign fighters returned to Kosovo from 2016 through 2018. Then in April 2019, the government of Kosovo—assisted by the United States—repatriated 110 of its citizens (four men, 32 women, and 74 children) who were being held in Kurdish detention camps in Syria. When these more recent cases are added to the first wave of returnees, the total number of individuals rises to 124 adult males, 38 adult females, and 80 children who are now back in Kosovo from Syria. (See Table 1.) These 242 individuals amount to 56% of the overall total of 431, including children born in the conflict zone. The recently repatriated men were placed in detention immediately upon arrival, pending prosecution. Meanwhile, the women and children were initially held at an asylum center near Pristina for a period of 72 hours. During this time, they were given medical examinations and assessments of psychological and other needs. Many were judged to be exhibiting symptoms consistent with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression.32 Following this initial assessment, women and children were allowed to return home together, with the women being subject to house arrest (initially for one month but since extended for all cases).33

Repatriated women and children continue to receive support from the Division for Prevention and Reintegration, which was specially created by the government of Kosovo for this purpose and is composed of officials from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Ministry of Health, and Ministry of Education, as well as social workers, psychologists, local level representatives, community police, religious experts, and others.34 As part of the approach to preparing the children for reintegration, they are being given additional classes and assistance to help them catch up in the hope that at least some will be ready for the new school semester in September 2019.35 Here it is important to note that of 74 children (all from the 2019 repatriation), 54 are under the age of six, which it is hoped will give them a better chance to (re)integrate back into society. On the other hand, those who are older and have never been to school before are expected to be more problematic to work with.36 Women, too, are given special educational classes as deemed appropriate and supported financially by way of vouchers for food, clothing, and other necessities, which are provided by an international NGO.37

In addition to the various forms of support that they are given, both women and children are also monitored by law enforcement.38 While none of the earlier and much smaller cohort of female returnees (who did not receive the same level of assistance) has been charged with terrorism-related crimes, it is nevertheless recognized that a potential threat exists, particularly among those who stayed in Syria for longer periods of time. Moreover, authorities have substantial evidence indicating that some recently repatriated women were indeed part of the Islamic State, meaning that prosecutions are now a far more likely prospect than in the past and criminal trials of female returnees can be expected.39

Managing the Risk: Challenges and Lessons Learned
As already noted, Kosovar authorities have taken a fairly aggressive approach to prosecuting adult male returnees, most of whom have been convicted of terrorism-related offenses under the criminal code.40 Although lack of evidence from the conflict zone has sometimes proven to be a problem, the rate of prosecution is relatively high (almost 70% of all adult male returnees, compared to an overall rate of about 10% in the United Kingdom.41 f). It should also be noted that in 2015 (by which time the bulk of returnees had already come home), Kosovo enacted a new law prohibiting its citizens from joining armed conflicts outside of state territory. Besides direct participation in extraterritorial conflict, the law criminalizes organizing, recruiting, and financing, as well as encouraging, leading, or training others for “the aim of joining or participating in a foreign army or police … [or] in any other form of armed conflict outside the territory of the Republic of Kosovo.”42 Since this does not depend upon definitions or designations of terrorism, this law may increase the chances of successful prosecution in the future, including of female returnees.

That being said, imprisonment also comes with certain drawbacks, most notably the added resentment that it creates among returnees, plus the added stigma associated with having a criminal record, which may reduce the chances of successful reintegration. Moreover, despite the fact that some terrorism offenses in Kosovo carry prison terms of up to 20 years, most sentences that have been handed down are for a period of less than five years.g In fact, by mid-2019, half of the imprisoned returnees had already been released. Of the 85 returnee foreign fighters who have so far been prosecuted, the average prison sentence is 3.5 years.43 This has serious implications for rehabilitation efforts within the prison system and, therefore, also for reintegration post-release. Systematic efforts by the Ministry of Justice to rehabilitate terrorist inmates in Kosovo only began in March 2018.44 As a result, there has been insufficient time to implement tailored rehabilitation and reintegration programs, which have been put in place for just 18 of 43 returnees released from prison.45 As noted above, some of these individuals remain highly radicalized (though none so far have been involved in planning attacks).46

Families and members of local communities have posed an additional set of challenges. In some cases, family members also hold extremist beliefs and may have negative influence over imprisoned or recently released returnees.47 There are also some families and community members who have effectively disowned their extremist relatives or friends and do not want them to return home, leaving the individuals in question bereft of social support. As one returnee complained, “I have lost contact with aunts and uncles whom I used to bring together in the past. They distanced from me after the media covered my story [facilitation of terrorist activities in Kosovo] continuously for five straight days. They say I brought shame to the family.”48 It is up to the Division for Prevention and Reintegration, and those who support its work, to manage such issues by engaging with communities as well as returnees themselves.49

On a more positive note, families have also proven to be valuable partners and often play an important role in the reintegration process. In recognition of this, the government of Kosovo, assisted by international donors, has been providing financial assistance to the families of returnees as well as those who were killed or are still in Syria.h This has generated a tremendous amount of goodwill, including among still imprisoned returnees, some of whom were so grateful that their families were being taken care of that they approached officials to ask if there was anything they could do in return.50

Although it is still too early to assess comprehensively either the threat that returnees from Syria and Iraq pose or the measures that the government has put in place to manage it, the Kosovan experience thus far still provides a valuable point of reference. In particular, this is because a relatively large number of foreign fighters are already back in the country and because the government has been very proactive, both in terms of repatriating citizens detained in Syria and implementing risk-management strategies. This stands in contrast to most other countries, which have not experienced the same level of mobilization relative to population size, have not been faced with such a high proportion of returnees, and have generally been reluctant to bring their citizens home.

In terms of the threat, the experience in Kosovo seems to confirm both academic analysis and recent reporting from other countries dealing with returnees from Syria and Iraq, which suggest that it is only a small minority of these individuals that are likely to plan terrorist attacks in the short-term (and this risk may diminish as time goes on).51 As already noted, however, the threat is still significant and will continue to evolve. Furthermore, Kosovan authorities still do not have a good idea of how many individuals continue to play non-violent support roles—in particular, spreading the ideology that sustains groups like the Islamic State—which may unfold over a much longer period of time. This is particularly true regarding female returnees.

In terms of response, it seems that the Kosovan approach to investigations and prosecutions has thus far been successful, judging by the high rate of convictions in Kosovo compared to countries such as the United Kingdom. More detailed comparative analysis is needed to determine exactly why this has been the case. Moreover, looking beyond the number of prosecutions, it is unclear how effective this approach really is, given that imprisonment has generated substantial resentment against the Kosovan state, including among low-risk returnees.52 Low sentencing also remains a problem and has stymied efforts to rehabilitate foreign fighters in prison and reintegrate them back into society. This highlights the need for better understanding of the sometimes contradictory relationship between punitive and rehabilitative measures, which should ideally be planned and implemented as part of a coordinated package that takes both individual needs and institutional capacity into account.

Additional challenges experienced on release—particularly those of either extremist, or unforgiving, family members and communities—further increase the complexity of the reintegration process and must be carefully assessed and managed.53 This calls for a holistic approach to managing the risk associated with returnees from Syria and Iraq that deals not only with the individual returnee, but their immediate and wider social environment as well. Finally, there is the need to be pragmatic, as evidenced by the added trust and goodwill that has been gained by providing returnees and their families with limited (non-monetary) financial support. By itself, this does not provide a solution, but it seems it can be effective as part of a multi-faceted approach—particularly in countries such as Kosovo where unemployment is high.

All of the challenges highlighted in this article are ongoing, and Kosovo does not presume to have all of the answers. Indeed, many of the efforts described are still in their infancy, and the country faces a host of additional hurdles to overcome, not least of them limited financial resources and institutional capacity. With this caveat in mind, this article represents a modest contribution to the literature on returnee foreign fighters from Syria and Iraq, the challenges that they pose, and some of the policy options available for managing the threat. Others who are grappling with similar issues can hopefully learn from this and will perhaps also be motivated to share their own experience.     CTC

Kujtim Bytyqi is Acting Director of the Department for Analysis and Security Policies of the Kosovo Security Council Secretariat. He is responsible for monitoring the implementation of the National Strategy on Prevention of Violent Extremism and Radicalisation Leading to Terrorism. Sam Mullins is an outgoing professor of counterterrorism at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, Germany, and is currently transferring to the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Hawaii. He is also an honorary principal fellow at the University of Wollongong, Australia. Follow them on Twitter @bytyqi_kujtim and @Sam_J_Mullins

The views expressed in this article are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily represent the official position of the government of Kosovo or the United States.

Substantive Notes
[a] Note that another 76 children were born to Kosovan parents in the conflict zone, bringing the total number to 431. On top of this figure, an additional 30 men, eight women, and two children have been prevented from traveling. Data provided by the Kosovo Police Counter-Terrorism Department.

[b] This term will be loosely defined here as individuals who traveled to Syria and Iraq and joined with militant organizations such as the Islamic State, regardless of their activities or status within the conflict zone.

[c] No returnees from Syria and Iraq are known to have come back to Kosovo in 2017. Information obtained by first author as part of professional duties.

[d] For adult males who could not be prosecuted, this was mainly due to lack of evidence.

[e] Note that this is roughly comparable to data released by the Belgian Coordination Unit for Threat Analysis (OCAD), which stated that 75% of male returnees, and 90% of females, had distanced themselves from radical ideas. See Guy van Vlierden, “Teruggekeerde Syrië-strijders zijn de grootste zorg niet meer,” De Morgen, January 15, 2019.

[f] Of course, this does not necessarily automatically imply that one system is better than the other. Different prosecution rates between countries are due to a complex set of factors, including different laws, procedures, and guidelines concerning what can be produced as evidence at trial. It is beyond the scope of this article to delve further into these issues.

[g] As noted earlier, leaders of attack plots do tend to receive longer sentences, but even these are often reduced on appeal. The longest sentences for terrorism offenses in Kosovo have been handed out not to returned foreign fighters or attack plotters, but to influential recruiters such as Imam Zeqerija Qazimi. Labinot Leposhtica, “Kosovo Jails Hard-line Imam for 10 Years,” BalkanInsight, May 20, 2016.

[h] As with female returnees, this assistance comes in the form of monthly vouchers.

[1] Joana Cook and Gina Vale, “From Daesh to ‘Diaspora’ II: The Challenges Posed by Women and Minors After the Fall of the Caliphate,” CTC Sentinel 12:6 (2019); Brian Michael Jenkins, “Options for Dealing with Islamic State Foreign Fighters Currently Detained in Syria,” CTC Sentinel 12:5 (2019); “Special Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS Ambassador James F. Jeffrey And Counterterrorism Coordinator Ambassador Nathan A. Sales,” U.S. Department of State, August 1, 2019.

[2] “Repatriate or reject: What countries are doing with IS group families,” France 24, June 11, 2019.

[3] Timothy Holman, “Foreign Fighters from the Western Balkans in Syria,” CTC Sentinel 7:6 (2014); “Understanding Push and Pull Factors in Kosovo: Primary Interviews with Returned Foreign Fighters and their Families,” UNDP, 2017.

[4] Data provided by the Kosovo Police Counter-Terrorism Department.

[5] “‘Dead’ Kosovar Albanian IS Militant Resurfaces in Gruesome Killing Video,” Radio Free Europe, May 26, 2015.

[6] “Report Inquiring into the Causes and Consequences of Kosovo Citizens’ Involvement as Foreign Fighters in Syria and Iraq,” Kosovar Center for Security Studies, 2015, p. 18.

[7] “‘Dead’ Kosovar Albanian IS Militant Resurfaces in Gruesome Killing Video.”

[8] Ebi Spahiu, “Lavdrim Muhaxheri: Kosovo’s Link to the Islamic State,” Militant Leadership Monitor 5:8 (2014); “Understanding Push and Pull Factors in Kosovo,” p. 34.

[9] Die Morina, “Kosovo ISIS Commander Haqifi Reported Dead in Middle East,” Balkan Insight, February 9, 2017.

[10] Arben Cirezi, “Kosovo Arrests 19 Suspected of Terror Attacks,” Balkan Insight, November 17, 2016.

[11] “Coalition removes ISIS terrorists from battlefield,” U.S. CENTCOM, August 3, 2017; Morina.

[12] Fatos Bytyci, “Remorseful Kosovo militants fight youth radicalization,” Reuters, September 30, 2016; Alexander Smith and Vladimir Banic, “What Should the West Do With Fighters Returning From Syria and Iraq?” NBC News, October 12, 2017.

[13] “Understanding Push and Pull Factors in Kosovo,” p. 48.

[14] Ibid., pp. 59-60; professional assessment of first author.

[15] Anne Speckhard and Ardian Shajkovci, “Returning ISIS Foreign Fighters: Radicalization Challenges for the Justice System,” Homeland Security Today, November 4, 2018.

[16] Kastriot Berisha, “I akuzuari për terrorizëm: Në Siri shkova pasi i përcolla qëndrimet e imamëve,” Kallxo, December 3, 2018; “Kosovarët e kthyer nga Siria arrestohen si të dyshuar për terrorizëm,” Koha, November 12, 2013.

[17] Nebi Qena, “Kosovo Police Arrest 6 Terror Suspects,” Associated Press, November 12, 2013.

[18] “Gjykata në Prishtinë jep 5 dënime për posedim të armëve dhe nxitje të urrejtjes fetare,” VOAL, January 22, 2019; Donika Voca-Gashi, “23 vjet burgim për pesë persona,” Koha, January 22, 2019.

[19] Skender Govori and Leotrim Gashi, “A total of 49 years of prison for five Kosovar terrorists,” Prishtina Insight, July 18, 2016.

[20] “Dy nga të arrestuarit, ish-luftëtarë të ISIS-it,” Zëri, July 14, 2015.

[21] Skender Govori, “Kosovo Terror Suspects Given Stiff Sentences,” Balkan Insight, July 18, 2016.

[22] Rukmini Callimachi, “ISIS Releases a Recording It Says Was Made by Its Leader,” New York Times, May 14, 2015.

[23] Govori.

[24] Labinot Leposhtica, “Sentences lowered for defendants in the ‘Badovci terrorism case,’” Prishtina Insight, July 19, 2017.

[25] Arbelina Dedushaj, “Rasti “Badovci” në Apel, prokuroria kërkon rritje të dënimit, mbrojtja kthimin e çështjes në rigjykim,” Betimi Për Drejtësi, October 24, 2017; author interview, former Chief Prosecutor of the Special Prosecution of the Republic of Kosovo, August 2019.

[26] “Liderët e grupit që planifikonin sulmin ndaj kombëtares izraelite të futbollit nuk pendohen para Gjykatës,” Gazeta Express, May 15, 2018.

[27] “Kështu mbrohen të akuzuarit për planifikim të sulmeve terroriste ndaj lojtarëve të Izraelit,” Metro Gazeta, March 27, 2018.

[28] Author (Bytyqi) interview, Kosovar security official, July 2019.

[29] “Dënohen me 35 vjet burgim të akuzuarit për tentim-sulmin ndaj ekipit të Izraelit,” Epoka Ere, May 18, 2018.

[30] Ibid.

[31] “Dy nga të arrestuarit, ish-luftëtarë të ISIS-it.”

[32] Sara Manisera, “After ISIS: How Kosovo is rehabilitating women and children repatriated from Syria,” National, July 25, 2019.

[33] Ibid. Additional information obtained by first author as part of conducting professional duties.

[34] Information obtained by first author as part of conducting professional duties.

[35] Information obtained by first author as part of conducting professional duties.

[36] Information obtained by first author as part of conducting professional duties.

[37] Information obtained by first author as part of conducting professional duties.

[38] Information obtained by first author as part of conducting professional duties.

[39] Information obtained by first author as part of conducting professional duties; Manisera.

[40] Notably, articles 143 and 144 (“Organization and participation in a terrorist group” and “Preparation of terrorist offenses or criminal offenses against the constitutional order and security of the Republic of Kosovo,” respectively). Republic of Kosovo, Code No. 04/L-082, Criminal Code of the Republic of Kosovo.

[41] Lizzie Dearden, “Only one in 10 jihadis returning from Syria prosecuted, figures reveal,” Independent, February 21, 2019.

[42] Republic of Kosovo, Law No. 05/L-002, “On Prohibition of Joining the Armed Conflicts Outside State Territory.”

[43] Data provided by Office of the Special Prosecution of the Republic of Kosovo, March 2019, and Kosovo Security Council Secretariat, July 2019.

[44] Information obtained by first author as part of conducting professional duties.

[45] Data provided by Ministry of Justice, Correctional Service, March 2019, and Kosovo Security Council Secretariat, July 2019.

[46] Information obtained by first author as part of conducting professional duties.

[47] Information obtained by first author as part of conducting professional duties.

[48] “Understanding Push and Pull Factors in Kosovo,” p. 58.

[49] Manisera.

[50] Author (Bytyqi) interview, Kosovar security official, July 2019.

[51] See, for example, Thomas Hegghammer, “Should I Stay or Should I Go? Explaining Variation in Western Jihadists’ Choice between Domestic and Foreign Fighting,” American Political Science Review 107:1 (2013): pp. 1-15; David Malet and Rachel Hayes, “Foreign Fighter Returnees: An Indefinite Threat?” Terrorism and Political Violence (2018).

[52] Professional assessment of first author; “Understanding Push and Pull Factors in Kosovo,” p. 59.

[53] See also Responses to Returnees: Foreign Terrorist Fighters and Their Families (Radicalisation Awareness Network, 2017) and “Understanding Push and Pull Factors in Kosovo.”

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