This contribution analyses religious radicalism and violent extremism in Albania and the growth of foreign fighters who joined the war in Syria and Iraq from Albania and the Western Balkans in recent years. As a new NATO member and an aspiring EU Member State, Albania's case reflects that of many countries of the Western Balkans, largely from Muslim-majority areas, which have seen their citizens join extremist groups in the Middle East since the outset of the Syrian conflict in 2011. The number of foreign fighters from Albania and the rest of the region peaked when Abu Bakhr Al-Baghadadi, alleged leader of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS, ISIL, and Daesh), proclaimed in the summer of 2014 the formation of a new caliphate in Syria and Iraq while also calling on Muslims from around the world to join the group. In Albania, domestic security and intelligence services quickly took action against homegrown cells, responding to concerns voiced by international partners. Ever since, both Albania and other Balkan countries have adopted legislation aimed at curbing the participation of their citizens in foreign conflicts, but the threats remain as the cleavage between Muslim communities broadens, and as transnational activities, including a potential nexus between religious extremism and organised crime, pose additional threats to regional and state security.
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