"10 Serbian citizens killed in Middle East wars"

Over 30 Serbian citizens are currently in the conflict zones in Syria and Iraq, Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said on Wednesday.

Source: Beta, Tanjug

According to the available data, ten have been killed, he added.

The Western Balkans is an increasingly attractive area for recruitment of terrorists, Stefanovic said as he opened a conference on foreign terrorist fighters, preventing radicalism and the fight against terrorism in the Balkan region.

He condemned Monday's terrorist attack on a police station in Zvornik, in which one policeman was killed and two injured, and stressed that Serbia is a reliable partner of the international community in the fight against this "modern evil."

The minister said that "terrorism is a threat that affects the whole world" and that only mutual cooperation, modern and trained police and work on prevention can help fight against it.

According to him, the Serbian Interior Ministry (MUP) makes concrete contribution to the daily exchange of operational data and participates in international initiatives, stronger control of border crossings, and financial investigations.

Stefanovic noted that eight criminal complaints have been filed in Serbia against persons "related to terrorism" and that indictments have been raised against seven.

As he pointed out, "our goal is to criminally prosecuted all those who propagate radical Islamist ideology."

Noting how modern technology leads to improved activities of terrorist groups, Serbian the interior minister stressed that the MUP "seeks to strategically and organizationally follow the trends in the fight against terrorism."

He explained that a group has been formed within the ministry that is fighting against terrorism and extremism, and that "only a modern and trained police can confront it."

The first step that Serbia will make on this road, he said, is to adopt a strategy for combating terrorism which will create a framework for institutionalized action of police officers.

However, he added, "repressive measures are not the only cure for terrorism," and spoke in favor of also working "on its prevention."

Stefanovic "pointed to the fact that the internet plays an important role in prevention," and that for this reason, "we should dedicate ourselves to fight against its misuse."

Cooperation and human rights

U.S. Ambassador to Serbia Michael Kirby took part in the gathering to say that the fight against terrorism is "a global responsibility" to which "every region of the world" must be committed.

Pointing out that the concern over terrorism is of a "transnational in nature," Kirby said that terrorist organizations are not new, but that the danger they pose is increasing, particularly in view of "the developments" in the Middle East.

Noting the pervasive radicalization and recruitment of fighters abroad, Kirby said that the U.S. "will continue to cooperate with other countries in the fight against terrorism" and added that the countries of Eastern Europe rightly recognized that this was a serious scourge against which no one can resist alone.

"These problems require international cooperation in order to overcome them," Kirby has been quoted as saying.

Head of the OSCE Mission to Serbia Peter Burkhard also spoke during the conference to say that foreign fighters are recruited around the world, including in Serbia.

That is an important fact, even though the number of foreign fighters from Serbia is quite small, Burkhard said.

"It is a priority issue for OSCE," Burkhard said, noting that boosted cooperation is crucial for confronting such phenomena.

"We urge stronger cooperation and a better exchange of information, in which the OSCE can be a platform for discussions," he said.

He noted that action against terrorism and violent extremism needs to be taken in all dimensions, and that the OSCE particularly encourages the local approach.

Local communities can best identify individuals before they carry out terrorist attacks, Burkhard said.

The OSCE Mission head also said that Serbia "must provide more support to young people to prevent their radicalization and recruitment."

The European Union is committed to combating terrorism and extremism by at the same time respecting the human rights and fundamental freedoms, Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia Michel Davenport said during the gathering.

Davenport added that "the main threat comes from terrorist organizations in the Middle East and Syria, Al-Qaeda above all," as well as from foreign fighters who return to their home countries.

"It is crucial to examine all this in detail. The cooperation and coordination of the EU member states, the U.S. and also Serbia is of vital importance," Davenport said.

Noting that the EC has recently passed a decision on financing the counter terrorism/foreign fighters strategy, Davenport said that the EU will continue to invest in the Balkan region.

He underlined that the U.S. is a crucial partner in this fight and underlined the importance of the conference in Belgrade particularly in the context of the attack in Zvornik, located on the border between Bosnia and Serbia.


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