…[E]xperts are now seeing an increasing radicalization in pockets of the country’s Islamic community, particularly after armed groups from the ethnic Albanian minority, which forms a quarter of the population of 2.1 million, fought a brief war against Macedonian government forces in 2001.

If we actually waited for the experts to figure things out before doing some thinking on our own, this wouldn’t read like decade-old news:

Radical Islam on rise in Balkans
By KONSTANTIN TESTORIDES (AP) – Sept. 18, 2010

SKOPJE, Macedonia — An online music video praising Osama bin Laden has driven home a troubling new reality: A radical brand of Islam embraced by al-Qaida and the Taliban is gaining a foothold in the Balkans.

“Oh Osama, annihilate the American army. Oh Osama, raise the Muslims’ honor,” a group of Macedonian men sing in Albanian, in video posted on YouTube last year and picked up by Macedonian media this August. “In September 2001 you conquered a power. We all pray for you.”

Although most of Macedonia’s ethnic Albanian minority are Muslims, they have generally been secular. But experts are now seeing an increasing radicalization in pockets of the country’s Islamic community, particularly after armed groups from the ethnic Albanian minority, which forms a quarter of the population of 2.1 million, fought a brief war against Macedonian government forces in 2001.

It’s a trend seen across the Balkans and has raised concerns that the region, which includes new European Union member Bulgaria, could become a breeding ground for terrorists with easy access to Western Europe. Many fear that radicalized European Muslims with EU passports could slip across borders and blend into society.

Naw, really? We hadn’t thought of that a million times, have we. Say, could the EU hurry up with expanding that visa-liberalization program to Albania, Kosovo and Bosnia? Really, what’s that hold-up about?

…”Wahhabism in Macedonia, the Balkans and in Europe has become more aggressive in the last 10 years,” said Jakub Selimovski, head of religious education in Macedonia’s Islamic community. He said Wahhabis were establishing a permanent presence in Macedonia where none existed before, and that “they are in Bosnia, here, Kosovo, Serbia, Croatia and lately they have appeared in Bulgaria.”

It is the first time a high-ranking official in the former Yugoslav republic’s Islamic community has agreed to speak openly about the presence and threat of radical Islam.

In neighboring Serbia last year, 12 Muslims — allegedly Wahhabis — from the tense southern Sandzak region were sentenced to up to 13 years in prison for planning terrorist attacks, including on the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade. The presence of radical Muslims in Sandzak, the poorest region of Serbia, is linked to the advent of mujahedeen foreign fighters who joined Bosnian Muslims in their battle against the Serbs in Bosnia’s 1992-95 independence war.

In Bosnia, the issue of Wahhabi influence is one of the most politically charged debates, with Bosnian Serbs maintaining there is a huge presence of Wahhabis in the country and Muslim Bosniaks downplaying the issue and at times claiming it does not exist.

Juan Carlos Antunez, a Spanish military specialist in religious extremism with years of experience in Bosnia, estimates there are about 3,000 people in Bosnia who have embraced this interpretation of Islam and only a small fraction of them are a potential security threat.

In a study prepared for the Sarajevo-based Center for Advanced Studies in May, Antunez argued that Bosnia’s official Islamic Community has been successful in curbing Wahhabi influence. Although it did not aggressively ostracize the Wahhabis, it strictly controls the appointments of imams in mosques and lecturers in Islamic educational institutions in the country.

Ahmet Alibasic, a lecturer at the Faculty of Islamic Studies in Sarajevo, said most Wahhabis in Bosnia refrain from criticizing the Islamic Community and were even calling for unity among Muslims.

“Their influence reached its peak in 2000, but it has since started falling and it continues to fall,” Alibasic said, adding that measures taken by Bosnian authorities [upon U.S. urging and teeth-pulling] after 9/11 had a significant effect as the movement began to lose power after the closure and banning of several Islamic, mostly Saudi-backed, charities which funded the movement.

But in Macedonia, the increasing clout of radical Islam is causing a rift in the country’s Muslim community, with a power struggle developing within the country’s official Islamic Religious Community between the moderate mainstream and the emerging Wahhabi wing.

Authorities in Macedonia are reluctant to confirm any threat of radical Islam in the country. But a government official, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the topic, did acknowledge that “radical groups and their followers are being closely observed.” [Except in some mountainous no-go areas where authorities are not allowed.]

Last year, three ethnic Albanian brothers originally from Macedonia were implicated — along with a Jordanian, a Turk and a Kosovo Albanian living in the U.S. — in an alleged plot to attack the U.S. Army’s Fort Dix military base in New Jersey. No attack was ever staged on the base, which is used largely to train U.S. reservists bound for Iraq.

Moderate Muslims say the Wahhabi sect now controls five mosques in Skopje even though the Islamic Religious Community has suspended the man they claim is the sect’s leader, Ramadan Ramadani, as imam of the Isa Beg mosque in Skopje, and prohibited him from organizing prayers.

But Ramadani, who has launched a petition seeking supporters to overturn the current Community leadership, rejects any accusation of radicalism, saying his opponents are scaremongering.

Ramadani insisted that Macedonia’s Islamic community had nothing to do with the online song supporting bin Laden, and denied Macedonian media reports that it had been played in mosques there. “Bin Laden is nothing for the Muslims in Macedonia,” Ramadani said. “He is not our hero.”

In case you started getting any ideas from the content that’s in the bulk of the article, that closing sentence is there to be the last word on this — and your last impression to take away from this grudgingly, belatedly reported trend.

Again, all this was unleashed by those who are now being targeted. As Chris Deliso warned in his 2007 book The Coming Balkan Caliphate, the real targets of the Balkan wars against Christians which we helped wage were the area’s Muslims.

And now, as I mentioned just this week, they’re crying for those they convinced to abet their radical-unleashing war (U.S. and EU) to do something about it.