By Fatjona Mejdini
Since the Islamic State lost its self-proclaimed caliphate late last year and its “caliph” in October, concern in the Balkans has focused on the prospect of hundreds of foreign fighters from the region returning home, battle-hardened and a threat to security.
Experts, however, say another group poses a greater danger: the thousands of ISIS sympathisers who never left.
ISIS may be on its knees in the Middle East, but support for its ideology is undiminished among radicalised ethnic Albanians in the Balkans, where social media support for ISIS propaganda and imams who spread its word remains “significant”.
These experts say authorities in Kosovo, Albania and North Macedonia need to put in place deradicalisation programmes targeting not just returning foreign fighters but the “social media jihadis” who share their ideological beliefs but who never took up arms.
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