NEWS

Concerns about ‘jihadists’ in North Macedonia

YIANNIS SOULIOTIS

TAGS: Politics, Crime, North Macedonia

Security services in Greece and the broader region are concerned about the presence of dozens of ethnic Albanians in North Macedonia who in previous years fought for the Islamic State and other radical Islamist groups in Iraq and Syria, Kathimerini understands.

The Greek Police (ELAS), and particularly the force’s counterterrorism department, is worried about 156 suspected jihadists they were alerted to during a meeting in Thessaloniki in December 2017 involving the police chiefs of Greece, Albania, Bulgaria and what was then the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

Police from what is now North Macedonia informed their Greek counterparts about 156 ethnic Albanian “jihadists” who traveled to Syria and Iraq between 2013 and 2015 to join IS and Al-Nusra Front, which is linked to Al-Qaeda.

Since then at least 86 of those militant fighters are believed to have returned to their homeland.

Concerns grew earlier this month when authorities in North Macedonia said they prevented a planned “terrorist act” by supporters of IS and confiscated “objects and devices related to the possible attack.”

Greek police sources told Kathimerini that their North Macedonian counterparts had not briefed them about the results of their investigation into the foiled attack.

The US Embassy in Skopje has also expressed concern, issuing a security alert earlier this month warning of “a heightened risk of terrorist attacks inspired by extremist ideology in North Macedonia.”

“Terrorist organizations and individuals inspired by extremist ideology are intent on attacking civilians, including US citizens traveling abroad,” the embassy said, referring to the use of “less sophisticated methods to target crowds in public places, including pistols, vehicles and edged weapons.”

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