Kosovo holds Islamist suspects over plot to attack Israel soccer match

15 people have been arrested in alleged plan to strike at 2018 World Cup qualifier game on Saturday in neighboring Albania

A view of Pristina, Kosovo (CC BY-SA Arbenllapashtica/Wikipedia)
A view of Pristina, Kosovo (CC BY-SA Arbenllapashtica/Wikipedia)

PRISTINA, Kosovo — A Kosovo court on Friday ordered seven people suspected of plotting Islamist terrorist attacks to be detained for a month, officials said, as media reports said they planned to attack a weekend football match involving Israel.

The order follows a series of arrests in Kosovo and neighboring Albania and Macedonia in which a total of 15 suspected Islamic extremists have been detained.

The seven belonged to one network that notably planned to attack a stadium in the northern Albanian town of Shkodra during the country’s 2018 World Cup qualifier against Israel on Saturday, media reported.

The match will now be held in the central town of Elbasan for “security reasons.”

Earlier this week Israel said the Islamic State group had been planning attacks in the Balkans and specifically warned its citizens not to attend the upcoming Israel-Albania football match.

The local Kosovo tribunal did not elaborate Friday on when and how the suspects were arrested.

Those detained also planned attacks in Kosovo “against international and other security institutions,” a tribunal statement said.

Their aim was to “seriously intimidate the population, destabilize and destroy fundamental … social structures and then establish the Islamic State,” it added.

They were plotting “terrorist attacks” with their counterparts from Albania and Macedonia against the same targets in the two countries.

Earlier this month Albanian police detained four people on suspicion of financing terrorism, recruiting IS fighters for Syria and spreading “terrorist propaganda.”

Macedonian officials said Thursday that two citizens were arrested during a regional police operation against suspected Islamic extremists.

The network in Kosovo consists of around 30 members and is a branch of a wider group in Albania and Macedonia, media reports said, adding that other members remained at large.

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