Bulgaria Cracks Down on Radical Islamists

Bulgarian security forces raid homes and a mosque in southern Bulgaria, in a special operation aimed at uncovering radical Islamists.

Ben Ariel,

Jihadist (illustration)
Jihadist (illustration)

Bulgarian security forces raided over 40 homes and a mosque in southern Bulgaria on Tuesday, to seize books and computers in a special operation aimed at uncovering radical Islamist activities, according to Reuters.

The popular private bTV channel showed armed police detaining Muslim prayer leader Ahmed Mussa at a mosque in the city of Pazardzhik, while local media said several other people were also detained.

The operation was part of a pre-trial investigation of crimes linked with anti-democratic ideologies and incitement to violence, the State Agency for National Security said in a statement.

"Some 40 addresses have been searched so far and numerous pieces of evidence seized," it said, according to Reuters.

The agency and the prosecutors' office declined to provide further information or give the number of people detained during the raids in the cities of Pazardzhik, Plovdiv, Smolyan, Haskovo and Asenovgrad.

Mussa was sentenced to a year in jail for spreading radical Islam last March in a case seen as a test for the delicate relations between the country's minority Muslims and Orthodox Christian majority. He was free pending appeal.

A former Christian who converted to Islam in 2000 while working in Vienna, he was convicted on the same charge in 2003.

While Bulgaria has not been specifically mentioned, more than 15,000 foreign nationals are known to have entered Syria and Iraq to join the ranks of the Islamic State (ISIS).

Over 1,000 French citizens have reportedly left to join ISIS and there are also recruits coming from, among others, Russia, the United Kingdom and Ireland.

The Bulgarian city of Burgas was the site of the 2012 attack on a bus carrying Israeli tourists, in which five Israelis and a Bulgarian bus driver were killed. Israel blamed Iran and its terrorist proxy Hezbollah for the bombing, as did Bulgaria.