Kosovo Charges 9 in Plot Against Albania-Israel Match

PRISTINA (Reuters) -

Kosovo prosecutors said on Wednesday they had charged nine Kosovar men with planning attacks at a soccer match in Albania against the visiting Israel team and its fans last November.

Last year, Kosovar police arrested 19 people — including the nine charged on Wednesday — on suspicion that they had links with the Islamic State terrorist group and were planning attacks in Kosovo and neighboring Albania.

At the time, fearing such attacks, Albanian authorities moved the Nov. 12 event to a venue near the capital Tirana from a stadium in the northern town of Shkoder.

The state prosecutor said some of the nine men charged were in contact with Lavdrim Muhaxheri, a prominent Islamic State member and the self-declared “commander of Albanians in Syria and Iraq” from whom they received orders to attack. Police and family members told Reuters last week that Muhaxheri has been killed in Syria.

The group was also planning to launch attacks inside Kosovo against local and international institutions and buy weapons with money received from Muhaxheri, the prosecutor said.

The prosecution said the defendants took orders from Muhaxheri and planned to attack and destabilize “the countries in the Balkans and then create their territory of the Islamic State.”

One of the defendants had kept in his basement 283 grams of self-made triacetone triperoxide (TATP) explosives. The same explosive was used in attacks in Paris and Brussels and was found in a series of foiled bombings in Europe since 2007.

Another defendant had produced half a kilo of explosives at his house from ammonium nitrate and fuel oil (ANFO), it said.

A total of 300 Kosovo nationals have gone to Syria to fight for Islamic State, and more than 50 have been killed there.