Kosovo group jailed for 42 years for aiding Islamic State

FERIZAJ, Kosovo (Reuters) - A Kosovo court sentenced seven men to a total of 42 years in jail for recruiting on behalf of Islamic State or fighting for the group in Syria, a judge said on Friday.

The main defendant, Imam Zekeria Qazimi, was jailed for 10 years for recruiting young Kosovars to go and fight in Syria. In a 2013 YouTube video Qazimi said: “The blood of infidels is the best drink for us,” the judgment said.

Five others were found guilty of “fighting with the terrorist organization called ISIS after traveling from Pristina to Turkey and later to Syria,” the judge said.

The seventh man was found guilty of recruiting fighters for Islamic State, also known as ISIS, and fighting in Syria.

All the defendants, some chained around the ankles, looked calm as they entered the courtroom surrounded by anti-terrorist police.

The case is seen as a test for the young Balkan country as it tries to stop its people joining Islamist groups.

Police say around 300 Kosovars have joined Islamic State and more than 50 have been killed. More than 100 people in Kosovo have been arrested or are under investigation for recruiting on behalf of Islamic State or fighting in Syria and Iraq.

Authorities say that so far this year no one has gone to join Islamic State in Syria or Iraq.

Under a new law, Kosovo can jail its citizens for up to 15 years if they participate in foreign wars. More than 90 percent of Kosovars are Muslim, but they are mostly secular and fiercely pro-American.

Reporting by Fatos Bytyci; Editing by Giles Elgood