In the summer of 2017 a young Serbian man died in Syria. He was the first Serb to die fighting Islamic State. The international news didn’t notice. His fellow supporters of football team Vojvodina Novi Sad put up a tribute on Facebook.
Dimitrije Sasa Karan (Димитрије Саша Каран) was 24-years-old when he stepped on a landmine. He had a wife and a young son.
His path to the battlefield started in the terraces of Novi Sad. Born in the Bosnian town of Foča, Karan moved to Serbia as a child to avoid the civil war that wrecked Yugoslavia in the 1990s. He got involved in the Novi Sad football scene as a teenager.
The team had a fanatical fan group called the Firma (Фирма). Chanting, flares billowing smoke, drinking, expensive casual clothes, nationalism, the occasional fight. A Serb version of Italian ultras and British hooligans.
Karan loved the life. He became a Firma leader.
On 18 November 2015 Islamic State soldiers in Syria murdered a hostage. A 48-year-old Norwegian man in a prisoner’s yellow jumpsuit was casually shot dead.
Islamic State had been trying to get a ransom for Ole Johan Grimsgaard-Ofstad since it grabbed hold of him in March. His previous captors had given up trying to squeeze money out of the Norwegian government and passed him on to the Islamist fanatics.
Norway refused to pay kidnappers. It tried to persuade Islamic State to let Grimsgaard-Ofstad go free. All the Nordic negotiators got in return was videos showing the hostage suffering the after effects of sadistic torture.
The negotiations were top secret until September when Islamic State published photographs in its Dabiq online magazine showing a grim looking Grimsgaard-Ofstad, along with a 50-year-old Chinese hostage called Fan Jinghui.
The headline read: ‘For Sale‘.