April 2014

…than it’s deservedly treated to yet another hallmark of all things Kosovo-involved (that is, in addition to bribery for entry):

Kosovo national team cause a stir by posing with guns before first ever international fixture (The Independent, March 7, 2014)

Kosovo fired a blank against Haiti in their 0-0 draw but a picture of them holding handguns at a shooting range has caused quite a stir in neighbouring Serbia

Kosovo created a moment of history this week when they took part in their first ever international football match, having been approved by Fifa as a recognised nation.

They drew the match against Haiti 0-0, but having had their first taste of the international stage, they’ll be gunning for their first victory in their next match.

However, a picture that has emerged of a selection of players posing at a shooting range before the game has caused quite a stir, with reports that an image of them holding guns has gone viral in neighbouring country Serbia.

At a time of great political uncertainty and with eyes in Belgrade looking on, the timing of the picture isn’t the greatest. Saying that, when is the best time to pose with handguns? […]

Another hallmark of Kosovo scandals: It only really causes a stir in Serbia. No one else cares that, for America’s Albanian clients, guns are an appendage that forms in the womb. No one cares, as long as those guns are used only against Serbs and other locals.

Now, on the point of having been “approved by Fifa as a recognized nation,” that was presaged as early as 2012 (’2018 World Cup stadiums approved, Kosovo in‘), so it was — as with all approvals for Kosovo — just a matter of conditioning the Serb side to the next set of reneged-on conditions. That is, the boiling Serbian frog scenario:

Kosovo national team approved for play (Vienna Review, June 17, 2012)

After prolonged reluctance, FIFA approved the participation of the Kosovo national football team in friendly matches with its 208 member countries, but then suspended its decision due to protest from the Serbian Federation.

Behind closed doors at the annual FIFA Congress, held in May in Budapest, President Sepp Blatter announced the initial decision after a vote in which one federation, UEFA, voted against the move.

In a statement on its website, FIFA had announced: “the Executive Committee has given its approval for FIFA member associations to play friendly matches with the Football Federation of Kosovo in accordance with Art. 79 of the FIFA statues.” Article 79 stipulates that non-members of FIFA such as Kosovo may play against members only with the approval of FIFA.

On 25 May, at the end of the week-long Congress, FIFA reversed their decision, announcing that officials from UEFA and Serbia would convene in Zurich on 29 June to clarify the decision on paper.

FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke told the AP, “it’s not recognition of Kosovo as a country, but it’s recognition that it’s a country where you play football.”

How do you like that one? It’s not a country, it’s just a country where you play football.

Oh, and the match last month just had to be played in Mitrovica:

Kosovo To Play First Recognised International Football Match (Isportstimes, March 4, 2014, By Shea Robinson)

Kosovo is only recognised by 23 of the 28 countries in the EU but will play their first FIFA-sanctioned match on Wednesday.

Kosovo will play in their first ever FIFA approved match against Haiti in a game that signals the end of a long and arduous battle to gain recognition in the world of football and the beginning of a new era for the sovereign state. The fixture will be played in the small mining town of Mitrovica, within view of Serbian homes and an area that has a NATO peacekeeping force of over 5,000.

The Kosovo national football team was finally recognised by FIFA in January when Sepp Blatter announced they would be allowed to play international friendlies. However, there were several strings attached - there will be no national anthems, no flags, no national signs or symbols and no matches against any of the other former Yugoslav nations.

[For now.]

…The bigger picture for Kosovo is the hope they will be granted full UEFA and FIFA membership in the future which will allow them to compete in World Cup and European Championships Qualifying. [Bank on it.] Interestingly, if this becomes a reality there will be a whole new set of FIFA rules under review.

[As usual, making over the world for Albanians.]

Kosovo has produced a large talent pool who have gone on to play for Switzerland, Albania and other recognised countries due to their families leaving their homeland. Players such as Bayern Munich’s Xherdan Shaqiri and Napoli’s Valon Behrami will be going to the World Cup with Switzerland but are eligible to play for Kosovo. FIFA will need to determine if these players would be allowed to represent Kosovo if they choose to.

This match is the first step on the road to much bigger things for this football loving nation and the passion is summed up perfectly by striker Albert Bunjaku, who represented Switzerland at the World Cup in 2010 but will play for Kosovo on Wednesday, “We want to send a signal to UEFA and FIFA that we have a right to be part of the football family. We haven’t played a game in two years, but I want everyone to remember: This game will be when Kosovo start on their road to the World Cup after over 25 years of isolation”, he said.

As I’ve asked before, what other group gets talk of all these international memberships before it’s even a country?

As Kosovo is increasingly legitimized through various memberships, those governing bodies should prepare themselves for more and more Albanian “shocks” (recall this one from September). But, as with all things Alban, it’ll all eventually be greeted with a shrug, and the world will — as ever — come to see things the Albanian way, instead of the other way around.

I last had an update on the Muslino/Sparabic phenomenon last July. But I could have included this revealing article, which I’d missed that April. Note the first sentence. It should be harder to paint me as “anti-Catholic” when I say Catholicism is a good stepping stone to Islam and, conversely, that it’s good for weening someone off of Islam. That is, Catholicism is a gateway drug when one is heading in the wrong direction, and methadone for when one is heading in the right one:

Mexico becoming more Muslim, one person at a time (April 5, 2013, By BC & Agencies)

Gathering from different countries at the sleepy beach of Tijuana, a growing number of the city’s population are becoming Muslims, finding Islamic values close to the country’s Catholic traditions.

“The Catholic emphasis on family and family values meshes a lot with Islam,” Dr. Khaleel Mohammed, a professor of Islamic and religious studies at San Diego State University, told KPBS network on Thursday, March 28.

“The difference, however, is that whereas many Catholics see the Roman Catholic values being eroded in the United States in particular, a lot of them are seeing in Islam a difference in that there are more Muslims trying to stick to the traditional Islamic values than leave them aside,” Mohammed added.

This is another way of saying what I’ve said myself: that as Christianity is undefended and banished by Western countries, only one religion sweeps in to fill the void. Of course, in the context of Catholicism specifically, this reveals that Islam is a definite draw for people who are used to being part of something that dominates.

Enjoying a welcoming atmosphere from Tijuana people, the Muslim population was growing steadily in the small city, with people coming from India, Costa Rica, the Middle East, Mexico and the United States.

At the city, Muslims have established a new Masjid al-Islam mosque to give the estimated 200 practicing Muslims in Baja California a place to worship.

This mosque is one of two new Islamic centers within a mile of one another, both of which have opened within the past three years.

According to WhyIslam’s 2012 annual report, 19 percent of the some 3,000 converts it assisted in 2011 were Latinos, and more than half of those (55 percent) were women. [See Islamabimbos.]

The 2011 US Mosque Survey, which interviewed leaders at 524 mosques across the country, found the number of new female converts to Islam had increased 8 percent since 2000.

Of that number, Latinos accounted for 12 percent of all new converts in the United States in 2011.

“It changed my life, you know,” Amir Carr, a native Californian, and a convert to Islam, told Fronteras Desk.

Carr, a tall man wearing glasses and a taqiyyah, or prayer cap, sits in a wheelchair across from his wife, Na’eema, who is wearing a loose blouse and a head scarf.

“I was a — a street kid, you know. I got put in this wheelchair for hanging out and hanging out with gangs and stuff like this, and I got shot.” [See ‘Why call it crime when you can call it relgion’]

When he got out of prison in California, his wife Na’eema, a Mexican national, was deported.

“They pulled us over for speeding, and they deported her within about an hour. It was so quick that you just couldn’t even believe it,” Carr says, shaking his head.

Coming to live in Playas, Tijuana, he was introduced for the first time to Islam, which changed his life for good.

“And for the first time I sat down in my life and listened, and when I listened to Islam…” Carr said. [Because badasses have respect for bigger badasses, so he listened.]

Same as Carr, the life of Samuel Cortes, another convert, changed when he came to live in the sleepy beach city of Tijuana.

Growing up Glendale, on the outskirts of Los Angeles, Cortes was a longtime gang member who was deported after spending time in prison for aggravated assault.

“But for the time being, I’m just mostly concentrated on my daughter, Islam, and work.”

Coming to Tijuana either by choice or no, many Muslims ended up staying in Mexico rather than trying to get back into the United States.

“When we open a masjid here they don’t even blink,” Carr said.

They look with curiosity and they ask, but for sure they don’t march. I mean, for sure nothing negative comes out of them.

“They just accept it as they would accept anybody else.”

They’re Mexican. What few observations they make, they make with a shrug.

A translation of a Serbian TV report from yesterday (original here), thanks to Nebojsa Malic, president of the Reiss Institute:

First Balkans Suicide Bomber (Radio Television Serbia, April 2)

Blerim Heta of Urosevac is the first Balkans suicide bomber. Heta blew himself up in Baghdad a week ago, killing 52. Before going to Iraq, Heta worked at Camp Bondsteel.

The investigation into the March 25 suicide bombing in Baghdad revealed that the perpetrator was Kosovo Albanian Blerim Heta of Urosevac, who called his family a day earlier and told them he would “meet Allah” soon.

Heta’s death was confirmed by his family. Kosovo authorities have not commented on the case.

The news of Heta’s suicide attack was confirmed by the website of “Islamic State of Iraq and Shem” (ISIS), an organization tied to Al-Qaeda. ISIS refers to Heta as “Abu Habbab al-Kosowi”.

This is the first documented case of someone from the Balkans engaging in a suicide bombing attack. There were several unconfirmed reports of suicide bombers of Bosnian origin during the Iraq War.

Heta’s family believed Blerim was fighting somewhere in Syria.

“After everything that happened, I don’t want to hear about faith.” said Heta’s father, Remzi. “My son was seduced. We are a family that shares European values, not extremists.”

The family claims that, prior to going to Iraq, Blerim attended sermons by Shefqet Krasniqi in Kosovo, as well as Bekir Halimi eid-Omar in Macedonia.

Yes, of course, like most Albanians — as we keep hearing ad nauseum — this one too was of a secular, “Europe-facing” orientation. So were the Albanian Fort Dix plotters, so was Arid Uka, who in 2011 shot five American servicemen in Frankfurt, and so were the other Albanians getting in on the jihad action. It’s interesting that Heta’s family thought their secular son was off fighting in Syria. (Though to be fair, they may have already been shaking their head on that count.)

So, we’ve got another one who was seduced — as The Weakly Standard’s long-resident Balkans shill, Stephen Suleyman Ahmad Schwartz, protests is the case for Albanians joining the jihad. “Nothing exceptional to see here,” we’re constantly told, “Albanians and Bosnians are like everyone else — susceptible to indoctrination.”

I believe it. But the point is, you know who wasn’t susceptible to Islamic indoctrination? The Orthodox Christians we bombed on the susceptibles’ behalf. Giving exactly this trend a leg up.

Now, on to the most interesting detail of all. The bomber worked at (drum roll) our Camp Bondsteel, which if I recall my previous research correctly, is the second-largest from-scratch U.S. military base since Vietnam, and the largest in Europe. Still nothing to see here, Folks? Kosovo — still obscure and insignificant? Even as its logical conclusion comes crashing down around us as we mark the 15th anniversary of that “successful” “humanitarian” war? (The crashing is a reference not only to Crimea and this bomber, but Georgia 2008 as well as all the secession movements on the table, not to mention a host of other complications, repercussions and reverberations discussed at length.)

What timing. March 25th. Fifteen years almost to the date (March 24th) of our coming to his rescue from those uncivilized Serbs. Maybe he too was marking our ’success.’

As Nebojsa Malic points out, Bondsteel is situated just outside Urosevac (or, as we call it by its Albanian-usurpation name, Ferizaj), where the bomber is from. The TV report didn’t tell us whom he killed, or in what capacity Heta worked at Bondsteel. Maybe as one of those helpful Albanian translators? The RTS broadcast also didn’t tell us when he worked there, Malic continues, and whether he was fired and then turned to jihad, or whether he was already a jihadist when hired.

“Or was he recruited there to go to Syria?” Malic asks. After all, fighting alongside the rebels would mean he’s fighting on “our” side, wouldn’t it, as in Kosovo and Bosnia.

Again, that’s Camp Bondsteel, where few Serbs are hired, it’s been explained to us, for fear of infiltration. The Serbs were the designated enemy, after all, as opposed to a potentially real enemy, whom we welcomed with open arms.

Once again, that’s Camp Bondsteel, named for Vietnam soldier and Medal of Honor recipient James Bondsteel. Which, in another cosmic twist of Balkans irony, sounds a lot like James Bond, a character based on the Serb who infiltrated the Germans and tried to warn us about Pearl Harbor.

(It would be more appropriate if the camp were named after the mugger/rapist James Bondsteel who once killed his roommate, given that the leader we installed in Kosovo reputedly did the same.)

Now, although this is the first confirmed successful suicide bomber from the Balkans, it’s not the first would-be Balkans suicide bomber, as an Albanian in an explosive vest had been arrested in Kosovo in 2009, on the one-year anniversary of U.S.-bestowed independence from Serbia. And who can forget Mirsad Bektasevic, whom police subdued “as he assembled a suicide vest attached to a detonator” the same year. That’s after the previous time he was arrested and a raid on his Sarajevo apartment “turned up suicide vests, exploding bullets, rifles and a machine gun, to be used on the British embassy,” to quote myself from November 2009.

Heta’s anti-Christian imam Shefqet Krasniqi, meanwhile, has been mentioned here previously, and the Macedonian one here, here, and here.

To close, this may be a good time to check in on Sami Osmakac, or more accurately Osmankaj, the would-be Tampa Bay bomber of 2012 and fellow “Kosovar”:

New details emerge in case of alleged plot to destroy Tampa Bay bridges, attack sheriff’s facility (Tampa Bay Times, March 13)

Sami Osmakac thought four or five people in a fishing boat would be enough to take down several Tampa Bay bridges, according to federal court documents filed Wednesday.

An attack on the bridges would leave people terrified and bring the area to a halt for at least a month, he told an undercover agent.

The August 2013 report from Evan Kohlmann, a private international terrorism consultant, is based on evidence provided by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

He thought he could take down at least five bridges with help from five people in a fishing boat, though he said “nobody wants to do it” and considered using a cell phone to detonate explosives, the report said.

Osmakac also wanted to assault a sheriff’s operations center in Ybor City and kidnap people from the building, the report said. He had a desire to attack “army people” but said “their bases are so locked up, I have to, I have to do something else.”

He talked about plans to bomb a South Tampa bar and shoot first responders, the report said. He showed the agent some planned targets, saying he had seen videos of preachers who “insulted God and the Prophet” while working near nightclubs on busy nights.

Osmakac planned to take hostages to exchange for imprisoned jihadist leaders, the report said. He vowed to shoot a hostage every 30 minutes unless the jihadists were released.

Osmakac, 27, a Kosovo native and naturalized U.S. citizen from Pinellas Park, was charged in January 2012 with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. The investigation began in 2011 when an informer told the FBI that Osmakac had been shopping for flags representing al-Qaida. The informer introduced Osmakac to an undercover FBI agent posing as someone who could provide weapons.

And another report:

Osmakac considered several terrorism options, court documents say (Tampa Tribune, March 13)

Sami Osmakac toyed with the idea of blowing up the bridges crossing Tampa Bay or detonating bombs at the sheriff’s office and police departments before settling on a plan to plant explosives in Tampa’s Hyde Park party district and then spraying first responders with automatic gunfire, according to recently released court documents.

The planned January 2012 attack, Osmakac said in a “martyrdom video,” would be “payback for Sheikh Osama Bin Laden, may he rest in peace. ”

The plots are detailed in a 37-page report by a terrorism expert hired by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Tampa to help in its case against Osmakac, a self-described jihadist who said he was too radical even for Hamas and other fringe Muslim groups.

In one recording Osmakac says: “My dream was always here. It’s better for, to get it, for them to get it here … ‘cause that’s why America loves to go to war with people, ‘cause they think nobody can attack them in their country. That’s why they’re so shocked about the Muslims. Because they brought it here … ”

Osmakac discussed a plan to use fishing boats to plant bombs on the bridges that span Tampa Bay and even one bridge in Sarasota. All he needed, he said was five people, maybe fewer, to carry out the plot.

“They’ll really be terrified,” he told the confidential informant. “Just take down the bridges, they can’t do nothing for a month. Nobody’s going to work, that’s gonna stop like three million people. They gonna be stopped…”

This is always reassuring. One supposes it was always the logical conclusion of Western media coverage of Kosovo. I’m sure he won’t be biased or anything. Note the year he was picked up by AP.

AP names news director for east-central Europe (The Associated Press, Feb. 7, 2014)

LONDON (AP) — Fisnik Abrashi, an Associated Press correspondent and editor who covered wars and their aftermath on three continents, has been appointed all-formats news director for central and eastern Europe, responsible for leading video, photo and text coverage in a region stretching from the Balkans to Poland.

Abrashi will be based in Prague and lead the AP’s eastern and central European team in reporting on the politics, economics, security, social issues and everyday life of 13 countries — Poland, Romania, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, Slovenia, Montenegro, Kosovo and Moldova.

“We’re excited to see Abrashi put into action his vision for aggressive coverage of one of Europe’s most dynamic regions,” [Europe editor Niko] Price said.

“Abrashi combines outstanding news judgment across all formats with in-depth knowledge of the region,” Hicks added.

The 37-year-old Abrashi joined AP in 2000 in his native Kosovo, where he helped cover the aftermath of the war that led to the withdrawal of Serbian forces from the former autonomous province of Yugoslavia. He later spent three years as a correspondent in Kabul, Afghanistan, where he helped cover the expansion of the Taliban insurgency, the rise of drug production [but not its passing through Kosovo?] and the cooling of relations between the Afghan leadership and its Western sponsors. Since 2010, he has been an editor at AP’s European headquarters in London.

Abrashi has traveled on assignments around the world for the AP, including witnessing conflict in Iraq, Sri Lanka’s first elections after its civil war, and the World Cup in South Africa in 2010.

Prior to AP, Abrashi worked for the BBC and for the Kosovo newspaper Koha Ditore.

He holds a master’s degree in East and Central European Studies from University College London and speaks Albanian and Serbo-Croatian, as well as some Bulgarian, Macedonian and Slovenian.