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News 24 Aug 17

Albania Police Heighten Security Against Terrorist Threat

Albania's police on Thursday said they will be boosting security arrangements in the light of continued threats by so-called Islamic State, ISIS, to attack targets on European soil.

Fatjona Mejdini
BIRN
Tirana
Albania Police during an operation. Photo: State Police

The recent terrorist attacks in Barcelona and Islamic State's threat to carry out more attacks in Europe have prompted police in Albania to announce extra security measures and more checks on those deemed at risk of becoming radicalized.

Police are also seeking deeper collaboration with the public, asking citizens to report any worrying signs immediately.

Albania and Kosovo are Europe's only majority-Muslim countries. Around 60 per cent of Albanians declared they were Muslims in the last census of 2011.

However, ISIS militants have named Albania as a target for attacks since the secular pro-Western government actively participates in the US-led coalition against terrorism.

The last major threat posed to Albania from radicalised militants came in November 2016, when police in Kosovo and Albania arrested 19 people suspected of planning to carry out terrorist attacks against Israeli footballers playing a World Cup qualifying match with Albania in the city of Shkodra.

The planned attack was linked to the Kosovo Albanian ISIS fighter Lavdim Muhaxheri, who was reported dead in Syria in June.

However, the police announcement on Thursday indicates that Albania is still seen as a country at risk.

"From now on, there will be an added presence of police in uniform and agents in the field, while tighter security measures and controls will be undertaken in places where people gather en masse, in shopping malls, etc," the announcement read. Police also said there will be more checks at checkpoints.

At the same time, the police said they were working closely with anti-terror structures to  keep a close eye on people at high risk and with known trends towards radicalization.

Current data suggest that about 100 men, women and children from Albania in total went to Syria from 2012 to 2014 to join Islamic State, ISIS.

Around 30 are reported to have returned to Albania. Authorities say they are aware of no further cases of departures for the war front lines in 2015 and 2016.

Since 2014, Albania has tightened legislation and measures against those who might want to join the fighting abroad.

Albania also has been preparing to open a NATO excellence centre this year, which will conduct studies into foreign terrorist fighters.

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