Thursday, December 20, 2018

20-Dec-18: Has Iran's terrorism-by-remote-control activities just run into Albanian resistance?

The Kosovar defendants in their May 2018 trial
[Image Source: Balkan Insight]
Times of Israel has an important-sounding story today about how Albania has expelled two Iranian diplomats for what are being called illegal activities threatening Albania's security.

The threats, it appears, were directed at Israeli football players engaged in a World Cup qualifying match. 

The technical grounds for the expulsion as quoted in an Associated Press report published yesterday (Wednesday) are “violating their diplomatic status”.

The TOI report quotes Top Channel, a private Albanian media outlet [on line here] saying
the Iranians are suspected of illegal activities related to a World Cup qualification soccer match between Albania and Israel two years ago. About 20 people were arrested in Albania and Kosovo following that match, which was threatened with an alleged terrorist attack. Albanian officials would not confirm that report. The planned attack in November 2016 was said to have been coordinated by two Albanians in Syria fighting with the Islamic State group.
Albania's capital city, Tirana [Image Source]
Eight Albanians were sentenced by a Kosovo court in May 2018 to imprisonment over the same foiled attack, according to an Associated Press report ["Eight Kosovars jailed after foiled attack on Israeli football team"] at the time. Police found explosive devices, weapons, electronic equipment, and extremist religious literature at their homes:
The prosecution said the group had planned to attack the Israeli team with explosives and automatic rifles. Police found explosive devices, weapons, electronic equipment and extremist literature at their homes. The plan was thwarted when Kosovo police got wind of the plot and tipped off Albanian authorities who moved the game from a stadium in Shkoder, near the border with Kosovo, to a town closer to the Albanian capital, Tirana. The prosecution said some of the defendants received orders to carry out an attack from Lavdrim Muhaxheri, a prominent Daesh member from Kosovo and the self-declared “commander of Albanians in Syria and Iraq.” Muhaxheri was killed in Syria, police and family members say...
Kosovo used to be part of Serbia but broke away and declared its independence in 2008. The country is ethnically Albanian and religiously Muslim, and 
has been confronted with hundreds of its citizens waging jihad in Syria and Iraq. It has subsequently strengthened legislation and attempted to root out radical Islamist networks [Times of Israel]. 
What do we know about the expelled Iranians? Not much at this stage except that another Associated Press report [here] says
A tweet from President Donald Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, provided the first report that Albania had expelled the Iranian ambassador. Bolton praised Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama for expelling "the Iranian ambassador, signaling to Iran's leaders that their support for terrorism will not be tolerated." "We stand with PM Rama and the Albanian people as they stand up to Iran's reckless behavior in Europe and across the globe," he wrote.
An anti-Iranian-regime source [here] suggests Iran has been targeting Albania for some time with diplomats who happen to be intelligence operatives.

If we learn more, we will update this post.

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