University in Kosovo Receives Threat of Alleged IS Attack

The largest university in Kosovo has received a threat warning of attacks from Islamic State (IS), university officials said Wednesday.

A threatening letter, allegedly signed by IS, was found at the campus as the University of Pristina as students and teachers prepared to mark its 47th anniversary.  The letter was found in the ceremony hall where the anniversary celebration was supposed to take place, authorities said.

After receiving the threat, school officials changed the venue for the annual celebration to another campus location.

“When our staff went to make the final preparations, they found a letter with an inscription [text] warning, ‘We will attack on February 15 at 11:00 a.m.’ exactly when we planned to mark the anniversary of the university,” said Afrim Hoti, a vice dean at the university.

Kosovo police officials said they are investigating and have interrogated several suspects who could have links to the senders of the letter.

“The letter is handwritten, it has no logo, and IS is claimed to be the owner of it,” said Argon Borovci, a spokesman for the Kosovo police. “Police take such threats seriously, considering the global developments related to that name.”

Struggle with radicalization

Kosovo is the smallest country in the Balkan region with a Muslim-majority population.

The landlocked nation has struggled with increasing radicalization of Muslim youth that increased after the start of the Syrian civil war in 2012.  Young people in Kosovo were drawn to jihad as high youth unemployment and poor education left them wanting, analysts say.

According to Kosovo government statistics, 317 Kosovo citizens joined armed groups in Syria including extremist groups such as IS.

At least 110 Kosovo citizens who fought in Syria with different Islamist groups came home, according to authorities.  Roughly 75 fighters from Kosovo remain on the frontlines in Syria.

Despite several de-radicalization programs sponsored by the government, many fear that the returning ex-fighters could still pose a threat to the country.  Late last year, Kosovo authorities arrested at least 19 people with ties to IS.  The government said those suspects were planning major attacks in the country as well as an attack on a visiting Israeli soccer team.

Sirwan Kajjo contributed to this report.

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