Norwegian killed in Syrian conflict

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Outspoken Norwegian-Albanian Islamist, 25-year-old Egzon Avdyli, has reportedly been killed in the Syrian civil war. Avdyli, a former spokesman for extremist group The Prophet’s Ummah (Profetens Ummah), is one of up to 10 Norwegians believed to have been killed in the conflict, but authorities said it’s hard to know exactly how many people have traveled to the war-torn country.

Avdyli’s death was first reported by the Albanian media, and Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported on Wednesday it has confirmed the man was recently shot in the fighting. “We have no comment on individual people, but we have previously warned that those who travel can risk losing their lives,” said Martin Bernsen from the Norwegian Police Security Service (Politiets sikkerhetstjeneste, PST) communications department. The Foreign Ministry (Utenriksdepartementet) said it could not confirm the death toll in Syria.

Avdyli came to Norway as a child and grew up in the country’s east. He became active in the radical Prophet’s Ummah group, and spoke out against the “witch hunt” his organization had been subjected to at a press conference in 2012. “What values have we violated?” Avdyli asked. “In a democratic society like Norway, where it is said that freedom of speech is set so high, how is it then okay that you attack our values, like the prophet Muhammad, or talk condescendingly about sharia?”

Last December, Avdyli told NRK he had left the Prophet’s Ummah. It’s believed he traveled to Syria to fight in the holy war in early 2014.

Unknown number of Norwegians in Syria
NRK estimated between five to 10 Norwegians had been killed in the fighting. PST said about 40 people were known to have traveled to Syria last year, but authorities lack a complete overview and are concerned the total figure could be much higher.

Authorities are also worried Norwegian Muslims will return from the fighting in Syria even more radicalized. Both PST and the military intelligence service (Etterretningstjenesten, or E-tjenesten) warned in their annual reports earlier this year that the threat of terror against Norway and its interests has continued to rise, with radical Islamists posing the greatest risk. At least one man has been arrested for crimes committed in the Syrian conflict after returning home to Norway.

newsinenglish.no/Emily Woodgate