Police in Kosovo have arrested 40 men on suspicion of having fought with rebel groups in Syria and Iraq in a crackdown aimed at deterring recruitment of volunteer fighters, authorities have said.
A police statement said explosives, weapons and ammunition were seized in Monday’s operation.
The 40 men were being questioned on suspicion of engaging in acts against Kosovo’s constitutional order and endangering the safety and security of the state, the statement said.
Local media said an 18-year-old man from eastern Kosovo was killed in fighting in Syria last week, raising the total number of Kosovo Albanians killed in fighting in Iraq and Syria to 16.
A Kosovo intelligence source who asked not to be identified said up to 200 citizens were believed to have gone to Syria and Iraq for the purpose of combat so far.
Kosovo’s parliament is expected to pass legislation soon banning citizens from joining foreign insurgencies, with a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison on conviction.
A number of European countries including Britain, France and the Netherlands have begun cracking down on citizens going to join rebels fighting in Syria and Iraq.
They are concerned that such volunteers could eventually return to Europe radicalised and could pose security threats.
Kosovo gained independence from Serbia in 2008 after an uprising in the late 1990s but widespread corruption and a lack of economic reform have hindered its development.