« Taliban claim suicide assault in Panjshir Valley | Main | Saudi DNA results confirm neither Asiri nor Wuhayshi killed in US drone strike »




Norwegian Islamist who fought for ISIS killed in Syria



Egzon-Avdyli-ISIS.jpg

A photograph of Norwegian ISIS fighter Egzon Avdyli [right] and radical Islamist preacher Ubaydullah Hussain [left] that was published on Facebook.

Earlier this week, Albanian and Norwegian media noted the death in Syria of Egzon Avdyli, who had come to Norway from Albania as a child. He is said to have died while fighting in the ranks of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham (ISIS), The Local reported.

Avdyli, a 25-year-old from Oslo, was a former spokesman for the Norwegian radical Islamist group Prophet's Ummah and had defended the group against what he called a "witch hunt" in 2012, according to The Independent, a Macedonian news outlet. He reportedly left Norway for Syria early this year.

The reactions in Norway to the news have been interesting.

His death was hailed as a martyrdom by members of Prophet's Ummah, and Ubaydullah Hussain, a former leader of the group [pictured above with Aydyli] wrote on Facebook that Avdyli should be rewarded for "the best death ... in the way of Allah."

In an interview with Aftenposten on May 2, Mehtab Afsar, the Secretary General of the 80,000-member Islamic Council of Norway (IRN), acknowledged that he had had several conversations with Avdyli. Instead of denouncing aspiring young Norwegian jihadists and further isolating them, Afsar argued, it is better to maintain dialogue with them. Afsar also wondered why the government is not making more use of IRN's contacts with the Muslim community in the fight against extremism.

The next day, Aftenposten ran an article featuring Zakaria Saaliti of the Young Muslim organization, who took issue with Afsar's statement comparing Norwegian military service with weapons training in Syria, and urged that Norwegian Muslim leaders make it much clearer to young people that they should not travel to Syria.

Today, Afsar spoke out against the way his statements in the interview had been characterized, but he refused to condemn those who travel to Syria to fight. He stated:

I'm not saying that I support those who travel there to actively participate in an armed conflict. What I am saying is that if it were so simple as to say that they should not go, why is it still as many as leave? One must find other ways to communicate with them, than to condemn them and teach them. It is the kind of arrogant attitudes that contribute to isolation and creates people who are a challenge for society.

Norwegian intelligence said in its 2014 annual report that the danger of Norwegian jihadists returning from Syria poses the most significant terror threat to the country, according to a report in Aftenposten. In February, a Norwegian man of Pakistani origin was arrested in Oslo after returning from Syria, where he had fought for ISIS and the Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda's affiliate.

An estimated 40 to 50 Norwegians are thought to have fought in Syria with extremist groups such as the Al Nusrah Front and the ISIS; and about 10 are believed to have died there, but Norwegian authorities will not disclose exact figures. Overall, at least 100 Scandinavians are said to have gone to Syria for jihad.

Lars Akerhaug, a Norwegian journalist who had interviewed Avdyli several times before he left for Syria, said Avdyli had encouraged other young people to travel to Syria for jihad and also "supported the establishment of an Islamic state in Norway or other Western countries," according to a report in NRK news.



READER COMMENTS: "Norwegian Islamist who fought for ISIS killed in Syria"

Posted by iq156 at May 4, 2014 2:33 PM ET:

Incorrect . He comes from kosovo and not albania . Pls be a bit more careful with such statements ..

Posted by Birbal Dhar at May 4, 2014 2:59 PM ET:

This has become a common occurrence now, that even the media in the western world don't make these stories headline news or even a bear mention these days.

Posted by Jens at May 4, 2014 3:23 PM ET:

Scandinavia has a very high % of young muslims fighting in Syria. This according to Akerhaug which is quoted in the article

Posted by Lisa Lundquist at May 4, 2014 3:26 PM ET:

All the reports I've seen have described him as Albanian. If you have more details, feel free to mention them. This report from Dagbladet a few days ago says he was Albanian but mentions a Norwegian from Kosovo also recently killed in Syria while fighting for ISIS. http://www.dagbladet.no/2014/04/30/nyheter/drept/syria/norske_statsborgere/33057430/

Posted by Lars Akerhaug at May 4, 2014 5:37 PM ET:

Hi Lisa, it's correct that he was from Kosovo.

Posted by Jeff Edelman at May 4, 2014 11:07 PM ET:

Who cares if they leave? Just don't let them back in! With their beliefs, they belong in no other country but a muslim country!

Posted by ckl3wis at May 5, 2014 9:07 PM ET:

Even though it's undemocratic and totally cancels out a fair trial, revoking their citizenship and leaving them stateless seems like the easiest, quickest way to guaranteeing they don't bring this mindset back to our doors. But, being that I am currently enlisted, my opinion is certainly biased.

Posted by blert at May 6, 2014 12:24 AM ET:

This case is a classic example of our media pulling a 'Winston Smith' on the readership.

Namely, the Press is slapping false ethnic associations upon one and all by terming Muslims as being British, Swedish, Danish, German,... et. al.

But no Muslim considers himself to be anything other than Muslim... and of the Ummah.

By their own words, they never self-identify as being British, American or some such. Rather, these are merely lands that they have come from.

Should any ethnically native European or American espouse Islam, AQ and the other fanatics want them to STAY HOME and commit jihad straight off.

AQ is entirely against having out of area Muslims participating in the Arab revolt. Such an attitude is on the record.

As for Muslims from the Balkans: they are the descendants of compelled conversions, events that happened centuries ago.

Under the Ottomans it was their strategy to use exclusively White, Balkan boys to fuel their jihad -- whenever possible.

We should expect AQ to mimic this 'long game' in every way possible. It can be no surprise that imams are recruiting in American prisons -- with astounding success.

This is why it's a Long War.

Conversion, subversion, assassinations, unlawful warfare... this is the way of AQ.

Posted by g at May 6, 2014 12:30 PM ET:

Who cares if he was Albanian or from Kosovo? As long as he is dead everywhere is better.

Posted by Eric at May 7, 2014 12:20 AM ET:

Mehtab Afsar is making an important point. Regardless of the messaging and the laws used to dissuade muslims from going to Syria to join the Jihad, they are still going. It is critical for moderate leaders to reach out to each of them as individuals, to discuss their individual experiences, and to offer to help them to leave the jihad and try to return to their former life as accepted members of society. If that is not made to be a legitimate effort, it only increases their alienation when they return home, and so it increases their sustained affiliation with radical groups. To break those ties requires acceptance by the moderate community and opportunities to find gainful employment.

National security is at stake. The political leadership should take heed of this message and the approach being taken by Mr. Afsar.

Posted by Celtiberian at May 10, 2014 4:38 AM ET:

Well, muslims from Kosovo ARE ethnic Albanians, so it's not so important to know if he came from Albania proper or from the other side of the frontier in Kosovo.

That said, it's true that muslims from Albania tend to be more moderate than those from Kosovo. The latter hardened in their ethnic war against christian serbs. btw muslim victory against christians in Kosovo was achieved thanks to NATO...