Overview: Kosovo continued its counterterrorism cooperation with the United States and the international community as a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. The government is drafting a new combined Strategy and Action Plan for Counterterrorism (CT) and Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) for 2023-27. Although the CT/CVE Coordinator’s Office was abolished in 2020, in April the government appointed Interior Minister Xhelal Svecla as the national CT/CVE coordinator.
In July, Kosovo repatriated 11 citizens — six male foreign terrorist fighters, one adult female, and four children — from prisons and displaced persons camps in Syria. The adults were charged with terrorism offenses. This was Kosovo’s second repatriation; it had repatriated more than 120 citizens at the end of the reporting period. Numerous Kosovars remain in camps, prisons, or are unaccounted for on the battlefield in Syria. Short sentencing in Kosovo for terrorism offenses remains a challenge, as do the reintegration and rehabilitation of FTFs and family members.
2021 Terrorist Incidents: There were no reported terrorist incidents in 2021.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Kosovo’s legislative framework is adequate to prosecute individuals suspected of committing or aiding terrorist activities or participating in foreign wars. Light sentencing, early or conditional release from prison, and a lack of organized post-incarceration supervision remain challenges. Kosovo maintained its commitment made at the White House in 2020 to enhance border security and screening to interdict terrorist travel. Kosovo has designated Hizballah in its entirety as a terrorist organization and is working toward passage of a Law on Targeted Financial Sanctions.
Through participation in the State Department’s Antiterrorism Assistance program, Kosovo Police (KP) received training in counterterrorism investigations and identification and seizure of digital evidence and have received associated equipment grants. U.S. mentorship strengthened judges’ and prosecutors’ capacities and helped increase cooperation between KP and the Kosovo Correctional Service (KCS), specifically the Corrections Intelligence Unit (CIU). Kosovo’s policing and corrections systems have made strides in understanding the recidivist threat among violent extremists and the risks of extremist “contagion” since the repatriation of 110 nationals in 2019 and 11 in July.
There are no tailored interventions in Kosovo prisons for radicalized inmates — such as cognitive behavioral therapy, mentoring, or structured dialogue tools — and no means to continue monitoring terrorism convicts after their release from prison. Kosovo lacks capacity and resources devoted to the long-term reintegration of returnees from Syria and deradicalization of homegrown extremists, and authorities are dependent on donor-driven programming.
Significant law enforcement actions included the following:
- In January, Sadat Topojani was granted conditional release. Topojani was an ISIS recruiter who had been at the center of a KCS/CIU investigation into the distribution of extremist propaganda within the Kosovo prison system.
- In April, the Kosovo Appeals Court acquitted all defendants involved in the “Hurricane” case of terrorism-related charges, the final verdict in that case. The defendants’ convictions on firearms offenses were affirmed, however, and they all remain incarcerated.
- In April, the Pristina Basic Court sentenced Nuredin Sulejmani to three years in prison for participating in ISIS during 2013-14. U.S.-based assistance in obtaining evidence played an important role in securing this conviction.
- In September, the Supreme Court of Kosovo upheld a five-and-a-half-year prison sentence for Visar Qukovci’s participating in ISIS, while ordering a retrial on charges of child abuse. Qukovci, an FTF repatriated in 2019, had filmed videos in which he placed a suicide vest on his infant son. The Pristina Basic Court in June had sentenced the defendant to eight months in prison for child abuse charges, which were added to the previous sentence.
- In October, police arrested five individuals suspected of planning an attack and seized an AK-47 weapon, ammunition, a handheld rocket-propelled grenade launcher and shells, explosive materials, electronics, and $71,207 in assorted currencies. This operation, the country’s largest ever, benefited from U.S. assistance.
- In December, the Pristina Basic Court sentenced Kreshnik Podvorica to two years and six months in prison for incitement to commit terrorism. Podvorica was found guilty of publishing content glorifying terrorist acts in Syria and inciting terrorist acts, including video publications of a terrorist act committed by his brother in Syria.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Kosovo’s legal framework against money laundering and terrorist financing follows international standards. Its Financial Intelligence Unit is a member of the Egmont Group. One FTF repatriated in July was charged with terrorist financing.
Countering Violent Extremism: Kosovo has shown limited progress in developing a new comprehensive CVE strategy. An interministerial working group is drafting a new Strategy and Action Plan to merge CT and CVE into a unified strategy. Challenges include inadequate capacity and resources, a CVE approach overly focused on security, and limited access granted to NGOs to work directly with returnees.
The KCS continued to implement a program, assisted by U.S. experts, to enhance management of terrorists in prison. This program involves collecting, analyzing, and sharing prison information among correctional service decisionmakers and other law enforcement officials and managing the rehabilitation and eventual reintegration of convicted terrorists. The Interior Ministry’s Prevention and Reintegration Division, despite being chronically underresourced, continued programming to reintegrate individuals who had served time in prison on terrorism charges, FTF returnees, and their family members.
Kosovo continues cooperative activities through the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund, through which Kosovo is strengthening the network of actors working on reintegrating and rehabilitating women and children who returned from conflict zones. Thirteen Kosovo municipalities are members of the Strong Cities Network.
International and Regional Cooperation: Kosovo coordinates closely with Albania and North Macedonia to support CT capacity building and regional cooperation.