Information Leakage Speeds Up Bulgaria’s Operation against Islamic State Propaganda
“We owe an explanation of why the operation was launched on 25 November at 7 am. Firstly, the collected information required careful and detailed planning as well as proper organization. The realization of what happened on 25 November, which as an act of investigation is almost complete at this stage was scheduled for early December. The leaks of information regarding the operation, however, accelerated its implementation," said Attorney General Sotir Tsatsarov at a special briefing of prosecutors and the State Agency for National Security (SANS). He pointed out that the operation involved over 40 prosecutors and investigators, more than 70 agents of the National Security Agency and more than 300 employees of the Ministry. "I have to thank the management and employees of the Interior Ministry," said Mr. Tsatsarov. According to him, the number of employees of the Interior Ministry was required to ensure public safety, prevention of disorder and a proof of the state as a body that stands behind its legal actions.
"This is not a cell of "Islamic state", but it could have been." These were the first words of the head of SANS Vladimir Pisanchev. He pointed out that the arrests of the suspects were not carried out in violation of their religious rights and sacred feelings. "This an operation of SANS and is not associated with any other international operations that are currently underway. In Bulgaria’s case special legislation was adopted that criminalizes participation in organizations, threatening the security of the country", said he.
The implementation of such investigation and collection of evidence undoubtedly requires detailed planning and organization, especially because of the large number of targets, which were investigated, commented Tsatsarov. His words made it clear that the operation was planned for the end of the first ten days of December. Leakage of certain information in the public domain caused the operation to start immediately, explained prosecutor number one. "I admit that Pisanchev and I were not particularly strong supporters of this decision, but we were convinced us that it was best to act immediately. This is not an investigation of ethnic or religious agenda," assured everybody Tsatsarov.
"SANS has done its action in Pazardzhik, because there were signs of recruiting volunteers for "Islamic state". This is not a cell of the "Islamic State", but it could have been," explained the head of SANS Vladimir Pisanchev. Some attributes of "Islamic state" surfaced as well as calls for jihad and for participation in military actions of aggression. These people were hiding illegal immigrants. We witnessed initial attempts to recruit fighters for the Islamic State, Pisanchev announced to the media. He pointed out that through its actions the special services agency wants to harm the feelings of believers in Islam. Ahmed Musa Ahmed, the Pazardjik’s imam who already has been sentenced for preaching radical Islam, was arrested 6 metres from the town’s mosque, and the mosque was not invaded, Pisanchev specified. He commented that there was evidence that an organization in the town recruited volunteers to participate in hostilities on the side of the terrorist organization. Currently 26 people have been detained for 24 hours, 30 witnesses have been questioned, and accusations have been prepared against 7 defendants.
Deputy Attorney General Borislav Sarafov explained the charges: from June 2014 to November 2014 in Pazardzhik Ahmed Musa formed and led a group with a composition - Angel Simov, Stefan Alexandrov, Svetoslav Marchev Stefan Dimitrov and Alexandrina Angelova. They are responsible for crimes against the state, preaching antidemocratic ideology, and spreading the ideology of "Islamic state." All are citizens of Roma origin with Bulgarian names, but between themselves they addressed each other in Arabic names.
Musa is responsible to the court for a third charge - in Pazardzhik, Plovdiv and Asenovgrad he preached and praised the ideology of the Islamic state. Musa spoke to glorify the "Islamic State" and its leader personally, because its soldiers fight for a global caliphate. He urged everyone to work for the highest goal, even if they had to go and fight on the side of the Islamic state. People had to fulfill their duty if they are asked to, Musa was quoted as saying.
It became clear that the imam was agitating also over the internet (Skype and Facebook), where he recruited supporters among Roma people throughout Europe. His online sermons he made at the background of the flag of the "Islamic state." There were hats, headbands, and stickers with the logo of the terrorist organization.
SANS found a number of promotional materials calling for military action – they also seized videos where at the background of the flag of "Islamic State" warfare was taking place, and buildings were bombed. There were a number of sermons proclaiming the caliphate - the aim was in 2020 Bulgaria already "to be waving the black flag of the caliphate," said Sarafov. He did not rule out that in the course of work the number of detained people may grow.