Inside Kacanik, Kosovo’s jihadist capital

Nestling in a wooded valley that its citizens laid their lives down to defend, the town of Kacanik in southern Kosovo is fiercely proud of its war dead.

Well-kept cemeteries include nearly 100 victims of Serb-led ethnic cleansing in 1999, while in the town centre, a statue clutching an RPG honours fallen members of Brigade 162 of the Kosovan Liberation Army.

But a decade and a half on from the war that brought about Kosovo’s independence, there is rather less pride in Kacanik’s new crop of warriors.

In the last three years, some 24 local menfolk have gone to fight for jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq, giving the town of just 30,000 people an unwanted reputation as the jihadist capital of the Balkans.

The mosque in Kacaniku in southern Kosovo where Imam Musli Verbani was forced from by extremists. Some residents have left to fight in SyriaThe mosque in Kacaniku in southern Kosovo where Imam Musli Verbani was forced from by extremists. Some residents have left to fight in Syria  Photo: Will Wintercross

To add to the sense of shame, one of them, a 25-year-old recruiter named Lavdrim Muhaxheri, has committed atrocities as gruesome as any of those carried out in Kacanik in 1999, when British troops unearthed a mass grave containing 81 bodies.

Last summer, in an act that sent shockwaves across Kosovo, Muhaxheri posted Facebook pictures of himself apparently beheading another man suspected of spying against the Islamic State. Another shows him executing a Syrian man using an RPG.

telegraph >>

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