A radical imam and six others were detained by Bulgarian security forces during a special operation late November after being suspected of being involved with the militant group Islamic State. Ahmed Mussa, one woman and five other men were charged with promoting anti-democratic ideologies and inciting war, both verbally and with the help of multimedia, said Deputy Chief Prosecutor Borislav Sarafov.
On November 25, Bulgaria’s security forces raided over 40 homes as well as a mosque in the southern part of the country, eventually seizing computers and books as part of a special operation aimed at exposing radical Islamists. Approximately 26 people were held for close to 24 hours and 30 witnesses were interrogated during the operation that involved more than 400 security agents, police personnel, investigators and prosecutors. The team uncovered a huge number of hats, shirts, banners and flags with Islamic State’s logo during that operation.
According to Sarafov, Mussa used to be a Christian of Roma origin, until he decided to convert to Islam in 2000, while employed in Vienna. Apparently, he has been seen preaching in the midst of Islamic State flags, often asking his followers to prepare for a fight against Christianity so Muslims can achieve the ultimate goal of setting up a global caliphate. Sarafov said Mussa’s group has in the past tried to recruit fighters for the militant group operating out of Iraq and Syria. Reportedly, these recruitments were carried out between July and November 2014.
Last year, Mussa was sentenced for a year for spreading radical Islam in Bulgaria, where the majority population is Christian with a minority of Muslims. However, Mussa was freed after pleading innocent. According to official figures, only 12 percent of Bulgaria’s 7.3 million population identifies as Muslim.
“(Mussa) is an intelligent man, so he has accepted the prosecutors' decision and he has not expressed indignation regarding his detention,” Elvira Pankova, Mussa's lawyer, told reporters.
Bulgaria is one of the few European countries where Muslims are not understood to be recent immigrants, since a small but strong community of ethnic Turkish descendants from the Ottoman period has lived there for at least a few centuries. Even though Bulgaria has agreed to be part of a coalition that fights Islamic State, it is yet to play an active military role.
Islamic State, which has managed to take over significant portions of territory in Iraq and Syria over the past one year, is notorious for carrying out highly publicized beheadings of foreign aid workers and journalists. Western governments have been increasingly worried about their own citizens joining the group and returning home to carry out similar attacks.
Photo Credits: Sofia News Agency