SKOPJE (Reuters) – Macedonian police arrested seven people on Tuesday believed to have fought alongside Islamist insurgents in Syria and Iraq, the interior minister said.
Police said those arrested, aged between 23 and up to 41, had been charged in two separate cases dating from 2015 and 2016 for participating in the wars in Syria and Iraq. If found guilty they face up to 10 years in prison.
Most of the ethnic Albanians who make up one third of Macedonia’s 2 million population are Muslim, but practise a moderate form of Islam.
Macedonian authorities estimate more than 100 of its citizens are fighting on the battlefields of Syria and Iraq, and so far about 20 have been killed.
Some Western diplomats say those returning from Syria and Iraq could represent a security threat in the Balkans, which are still wars in the 1990s.
(Reporting by Kole Casule; Writing by Ivana Sekularac; Editing by Angus MacSwan)