Terrorism trials involving Balkan Islamists show that many of these individuals were either indoctrinated by – or had close links to – radicalised communities in Germany, Austria and Italy.
I do not know what Islamic State is,” Ahmed Moussa told journalists when he was temporarily released from prison in Bulgaria in November.
An imam from Iztok, he was arrested three years ago alongside 13 other Roma men on suspicion of inciting religious hatred and spreading ISIS propaganda.
He and two others were additionally charged with providing support to foreign jihadists travelling to Syria.
Moussa had been a Christian until the age of 20, attending the local evangelical church. However, he later became a standard-bearer for the new radical brand of Islam in Iztok.
Court documents from his previous convictions of spreading religious hatred sketch out the process of his transformation.
He converted to Islam on a visit to Austria in the mid-1990s. Later, he attended a one-year course for imams in the Bulgarian village of Surnitsa, which is where his teacher, who had a degree from Saudi Arabia, introduced him to hardline Salafist ideas.