Kosovo Police on Wednesday arrested Fuad Ramiqi, leader of Levizja Islamike Bashkohu [Islamic Movement Unite], LISBA, a hard-line Muslim organization that has transformed itself into a political party.
The police operation is still ongoing; however, media reports said that besides Ramiqi, a number of other persons were also arrested, including prominent imams.
Brahim Sadria, a police spokesperson, confirmed that an operation involving searches and arrests was going on in Prishtina and Mitrovica.
“A Kosovo Police operation was conducted in the early hours of Wednesday,” he told BIRN.
“After some months of investigations, in cooperation with the State Prosecution, the Kosovo Police have arrested persons who are suspected of committing criminal offenses against the constitutional order and security of the Republic of Kosovo,” a police statement said.
“This operation was conducted after evaluating the danger and importance to the national security, the constitutional order, and the rule of law,” it added.
“During the operation, the police raided 16 locations, and 15 persons were arrested.”
The Islamic Movement Unite confirmed the arrest of its leader, Fuad Ramiqi, and condemned the arrests as “politically motivated.
“The police of [Prime Minister] Hashim Thaci have arrested prominent imams and Fuad Ramiqi,” a press release from LISBA said.
“LISBA condemns the persecution of Muslims in Kosovo, and we ask the Kosovo Police not to fall prey to politics.”
The mission of the group – according to posts on its Facebook page – includes building of a big mosque in Pristina, permission for women to wear the hijab in schools and public institutions and the inclusion of religion in the school curriculum.
According to the media reports, one of the arrested persons is Imam Shefqet Krasniqi, who was sent to police for interrogation two weeks ago on suspicion of “incitement to hatred and religious, racial, ethnic intolerance”.
On 11 August, police arrested 40 suspected Islamist militants who they believe have participated in the fighting in Iraq and Syria.
A number of Muslim Albanians from the Balkans have joined the sectarian conflict in Iraq and Syria.
The International Center for the Study of Radicalization, ISRA, a think tank based in King’s College, London, believes that some 300 Albanian fighters, from Kosovo, Macedonia and Albania, have joined militant groups in Syria, including Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State, or IS.