5th Oct 2022

Bulgaria breaks Islamist propaganda network

  • Police arrested eight men near Plovdiv, Bulgaria's second largest city (Photo: dimnikolov)

Bulgaria, a transit country for the so-called foreign fighters traveling to and from Iraq and Syria, is in the process of dismantling a radical Islamist propaganda network of its own.

Police near the country’s second biggest city of Plovdiv, some 130 kilometres southeast of Sofia, arrested eight men on Tuesday (31 March) on charges of belonging to a group that ”spread an antidemocratic ideology and war propaganda”.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The arrests were made in poor Roma neighbourhoods of Plovdiv and the near towns of Asenovgrad and Pazardzhik.

The authorities have issued a European arrest warrant for two other suspects, the State Agency on National Security said. It did not say which EU states these suspects were supposed to be staying in.

They come on top of the arrests of 27 similar suspects in the area on the same charges on last November 25 that included Ahmed Musa Ahmed, a local Muslim leader in Pazardzhik.

A court in Pazardzhik sentenced him to one year in jail last March after finding him guilty of preaching radical Islam. He appealed the verdict and didn’t immediately start to serve his term.

Ahmed was handed a three-year suspended sentence in 2005 for having been part of an outlawed group that opposed the secular state and called for the establishment of a caliphate, a religion-based Islamic state.

Evidence that investigators found in the latest two rounds of arrests included T-shirts with the logo of the so-called Islamic State that controls vast swathes of land in Iraq and Syria and Facebook statuses urging Muslims to join it.

Bulgaria, a 80-percent Christian Orthodox country of 7.2 million, is home of some half a million of ethnic Turks all of whom are Muslim, about 400,000 Roma who are partly Muslim, partly Christian, and a smaller minority of Bulgarian-speaking Muslims, the so-called Pomaks.

Neighbouring Turkey is a major transit route for European jihadists who travel to Iraq and Syria or return after having fought there.

EU chief anti-terrorist coordinator Gilles de Kerchove has repeatedly said that Iraq and Syria jihadists are likely to switch to land routes to get to their countries of origin in the EU, with the EU tightening flight security in the wake of the Paris and Copenhagen attacks earlier this year.

Bulgaria, which along with Romania wants to join the EU Schengen free-travel zone, has beefed up policing of its 259-kilometre land border with Turkey and is building a barbed-wire fence tens of kilometres long to stem migrants, mainly from war-torn regions in the EU's southern neighbourhood.

The detainees in the Plovdiv area are locals. It was not immediately clear whether they had any links to the migration flows.

According to Bulgarian security officials, the local Muslims are moderate Sunni and are not likely to radicalised.

After decades of Communist-imposed atheism and campaigns to change their names to Slavic ones, the Muslim minorities in Bulgaria have taken advantage of the religious freedom that democracy restored.

New mosques and religious schools have mushroomed in their areas, some of them being funded by Saudi Arabia and other oversees foundations. Dozens of young locals have travelled to receive religious education in Arab countries.


Why northeast Italy traded in League for Brothers of Italy

EUobserver spoke with several business figures and all confirmed they voted for Georgia Meloni's Brothers of Italy because it promised stability, less bureaucracy and tax cuts. Matteo Salvini's anti-EU rhetoric scared them, while they trust Meloni has "more common sense".

Europe's far-right celebrates Meloni victory

In Warsaw and Budapest, the prime ministers were quick to congratulate the new Italian leader, who — they hope — will back them in their battles with the EU over civil rights, rule of law and democratic backsliding.


How Europe helped normalise Georgia Meloni

Should Georgia Meloni be considered neofascist? She insists she's a patriotic conservative. And indeed, if she's prime minister, she's expected to respect Italy's democracy — if only to keep money flowing from the EU.

News in Brief

  1. Russia's stand-in EU ambassador reprimanded on Ukraine
  2. France warns over incoming eighth Covid wave
  3. EU adds Anguilla, Bahamas and Turks and Caicos to tax-haven blacklist
  4. Czechs warn joint-nationality citizens in Russia on mobilisation
  5. Greece to unveil proposal for capping EU gas prices
  6. Four dead, 29 missing, after dinghy found off Canary Islands
  7. Orbán: German €200bn shield is start of 'cannibalism in EU'
  8. Lithuania expels top Russian diplomat

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. The European Association for Storage of EnergyRegister for the Energy Storage Global Conference, held in Brussels on 11-13 Oct.
  2. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  3. European Committee of the RegionsThe 20th edition of EURegionsWeek is ready to take off. Save your spot in Brussels.
  4. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries

Latest News

  1. EU debates new pandemic-type loans to deal with crisis
  2. MEPs condemn EU Commission 'leniency' on Hungary
  3. Czech EU presidency wants asylum pledges to be secret
  4. European navies must stay on Suez trade routes, EU diplomats warn
  5. Macron's 'European Political Community' — how could it work?
  6. EU adopts common charger law, forces iPhone redesign
  7. Last-minute legal changes to Bosnian election law stir controversy
  8. EU wants probe into alleged war crimes by Azerbaijan

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us