Austria Jails Balkan-Born Jihadi Recruiter


By Rodolfo Toe

An Austrian court sentenced a Muslim radical preacher, Mirsad Omerovic, better known as Ebu Tejma, to 20 years in prison for recruiting volunteers for Islamic State.

A court in the city of Graz on Thursday found Omerovic guilty of being a member of a terrorist organisation and recruiting young volunteers for the so-called Islamic State.

According to the public prosecutor, the 34-year-old preacher “brainwashed” dozens of people aged between 14 and 30 in order to convince them to become jihadi fighters in Syria.

Omerovic, who was originally from the town in Tutin in Serbia and then lived in Bosnia, moved to Vienna after Yugoslavia collapsed.

He then started preaching in several cities in Austria and southern Germany, becoming one of the key figures in promoting IS, according to the prosecution.

He still holds Serbian citzenship, Austrian newspaper Die Presse has reported.

He was arrested in November 2014 during a police operation against a jihadist network operating in the country.

Omerovic denied the charges against him, AFP news agency reported.

Security experts from Sarajevo said in March that they believe that the case against Omerovic is part of an Austrian operation against an Islamist network formed by radical elements from the Balkans.

As well as having recruited volunteers for IS, it has also succeeded in getting people to stage attacks in the Balkans, the experts suggested. Mevlid Jasarevic, a Serbian citizen who attacked the US embassy in Sarajevo in 2011, had been radicalised in Vienna.

The Austrian authorities estimate that there are around 250 people with connections to IS in the country, mostly from Chechnya and Bosnia, AFP reported.

Around 300 Austrian citizens left the country to join IS by October 2015, according to a report by intelligence analysis company the Soufan Group at the end of last year.

Balkan Insight

The Balkan Insight (formerly the Balkin Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN) is a close group of editors and trainers that enables journalists in the region to produce in-depth analytical and investigative journalism on complex political, economic and social themes. BIRN emerged from the Balkan programme of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IWPR, in 2005. The original IWPR Balkans team was mandated to localise that programme and make it sustainable, in light of changing realities in the region and the maturity of the IWPR intervention. Since then, its work in publishing, media training and public debate activities has become synonymous with quality, reliability and impartiality. A fully-independent and local network, it is now developing as an efficient and self-sustainable regional institution to enhance the capacity for journalism that pushes for public debate on European-oriented political and economic reform.

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