The Vigilantes Hunting Migrants on the Edge of Europe

By Mac William Bishop

NEAR MALKO TARNOVO, Bulgaria — Figures in camouflage and ski masks gather at a fishing lodge. Many are armed with long knives, bayonets and hatchets.

The 35 men and women are on the hunt in Strandzha Massif, a forested mountain range on Bulgaria's border with Turkey. Migrants trying to cross into Europe are their prey.

Patches on their irregular uniforms — a coat of arms bearing a snarling wolf's head framed by Cyrillic text — proclaim them to be members of the Bulgarian National Movement Shipka, abbreviated in Bulgarian as "BNO Shipka."

Members of the paramilitary organization form into ranks as their leader, Vladimir Rusev, speaks. A former colonel who says he fought in Chechnya as a volunteer alongside Russians, Rusev declares his support for a man they admire: President Donald Trump.

"The CIA is trying to undermine Trump," said Rusev, a compact 58-year-old with a neat mustache and short-cropped hair. "They want to destroy him. We offer our support to him."

Trump's hard-line stance on immigration and vocal criticism of Islam finds an appreciative audience here.

Most BNO Shipka members are friendly, courteous and open. The organization's website projects a different message: slick videos replete with firearms and military training, and declarations that Europe must be defended against Islam.

Full story here: http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/europes-border-crisis/bulgarian-vigilantes-patrol-turkey-border-keep-migrants-out-n723481