Arrests aid terrorism fight in Albania


The arrests of five suspects bring a long-desired relief from a terror group's actions.

By Erl Murati for Southeast European Times in Tirana -- 06/03/14


Albanian officers conduct an anti-terrorism exercise. Security experts have urged the country's law enforcement agencies to work jointly to prevent acts of terrorism. [AFP]

The arrests by Albanian police of five people accused of being involved in a terrorism ring that has been linked to 22 murders in Albania and Greece is being called a "spectacular attack" against organised crime.

The group sought to kill prominent politicians and business people during the last two years for 20,000 euros to 50,000 euros per person, according to prosecutors.

Albania's state police said the group's preferred assassination method was to use C-4 plastic explosives. The arrests were carried out in late January and last month as the group planned to assassinate a businessman in the gas industry.

Police also said they confiscated automatic firearms, C-4 plastic explosives, detonators and mobile phones to activate explosions.

One group member is still at large.

"This is the most spectacular attack against organised crime in the history of Albanian police. The C-4 explosions will be treated as terrorist acts," Interior Minister Saimir Tahiri told SETimes.

The aim of this group was to destabilise the country, said Ardian Cipa, Tirana police director.

"We have extended our co-operation to the Greek police because one of the accused was most likely involved in serious crimes in Greece," Cipa told SETimes.

Julian Sinanaj is suspected of killing more than 20 people and committing other serious crimes in Greece, including a bombing attack on a Thessaloniki courthouse.

Greek police experts recently arrived in Tirana to question Sinanaj.

The arrest of the terror group will bring a sense of relief, said Fatos Klosi, former head of Albania's intelligence service SHISH.

"These were sheer criminal acts with a terror effect on the population. In some cases they intended to convey a message. That is why the arrest of this gang contributes to the country's stability," Klosi told SETimes.

Some attempted assassinations did not succeed because of a combination of police vigilance and luck.

Besnik Dervishi, head of Vlora prefecture, survived a planned assassination last December when guards at the prime minister's office discovered a C-4 explosive device placed under Dervishi's car during a routine security check.

Similarly, Ardian Kollozi -- former opposition Democratic Party parliament member -- and his family survived an assassination attempt after police said the group placed C-4 explosives at Kollozi's house.

Given the criminal activities, officials raised the issue about the need to improve law enforcement co-operation and enhance the ability to prevent terrorist acts.

Tahiri told a parliamentary commission he had not received any information from SHISH that would lead to preventive action against terrorists.

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"There is a need for a radical, legal and organisational reform in the secret service in order to meet the needs to face the challenges of our time," Prime Minister Edi Rama said.

Security experts said law enforcement agencies' joint work to prevent terrorist acts is of paramount importance in protecting national security.

"The many explosions harmed national security. Responsibility falls on all institutions including SHISH because this phenomenon may get out of control. If a closer co-operation among the institutions is achieved, such events can be avoided in the future," Sokol Gashi, a lecturer at the state police academy in Tirana, told SETimes.

What can Albania do to unify law enforcement efforts to fight terrorism more effectively? Share your opinion in the comments section.

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