— -- ISIS launched a new push to reel in disaffected Muslims as fighters in Syria and Iraq with a new video posted online Thursday, offering them a "stronghold" there to worship freely -- and to fight for.
The 20-minute video by the core-ISIS propaganda machine, Al-Hayat Media Center, starred a group of camouflage-clad mujahideen from the Balkans region of Eastern Europe pleading for their countrymen to join brothers in the "caliphate," or pure Islamic state, claimed a year ago by the terror group.
"If you want honor, come here, brothers. Don't let the dirty tawaghit [tyrants] arrest you, humiliate you, break into your houses in the middle of the night, finding your wives uncovered," urges one Albanian fighter, cradling a young son and toddler daughter, with his wife covered in a full niqab.
The Bosnian jihadi is even shown buckling a child into a car seat of a small KIA, just like a normal dad anywhere -- albeit with an AK-47 slung over his shoulder.
The ISIS video's narrator, a familiar voice from past videos speaking in perfect American English, called the caliphate's conquered regions "a stronghold for the believers where they can live in dignity and safety with their families."
"Return to honor, return to jihad for the cause of Allah," pleads a Bosnian jihadi in another segment of the ISIS video, who joins fighters from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Albania and other regions addressing the camera. Some are shown playing chess and strolling happily in ISIS-held Syrian communities. One former top official said the message may succeed in swaying young Muslims to make the southeastern journey.
"Many young Muslims in Europe feel alienated. So you have a festering ulcer that hasn't been cured," said Jacques Klein, who oversaw security in the Balkans as the top United Nations official there following the NATO military campaign that ended in 1999. "It is the lack of the integration of the Muslim population in Europe that is the genesis of this problem."
Part of the video pitch this week is revisionist history: ISIS showing United Nations troops near civilian bodies as well as NATO aircraft dropping bombs during the war there two decades ago, which saw the UN at times failing to protect Muslim civilians in Bosnia targeted for genocide by Serbian military forces, who were Orthodox Christian.
"After witnessing the Crusader onslaught in Bosnia-Herzegovina, men from amongst the Muslims finally did wake up to the warning of our Prophet and to the screams and cries of our violated sisters and children that reverberated across the globe, shaking the heart of every truthful Muslim. They traveled from across the globe and by Allah's Favor, they repelled the Crusaders, despite the UN's arms embargo and despite attacks conducted by NATO to circumvent their rise," extols the American-sounding ISIS narrator.
But Klein said the U.S. and NATO ended the killings of Muslims in the region and brought peace to the Balkans.
"The fact is the West saved them. If it hadn't been for the West interjecting itself in the Balkans, it would have been worse if the Serbs had gotten their way," said Klein, who also is a retired U.S. Air Force major general.