Two in Kosovo plead guilty to plotting attack on Israeli soccer match
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Two in Kosovo plead guilty to plotting attack on Israeli soccer match

Pair were among nine charged in Islamic State-directed plan to target World Cup qualifier in Albania

Albanian special policemen take part in a security briefing at the Elbasan Arena stadium before the 2018 World Cup group G qualifying football match between Albania and Israel, in Elbasan on November 12, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / GENT SHKULLAKU
Albanian special policemen take part in a security briefing at the Elbasan Arena stadium before the 2018 World Cup group G qualifying football match between Albania and Israel, in Elbasan on November 12, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / GENT SHKULLAKU

Two men in Kosovo pleaded guilty Wednesday to planning attacks against Israelis during a soccer match in Albania last year.

Kenan Plakaj and Besart Peci were part of a group of 19 men detained in a series of arrests in Kosovo and neighboring Albania and Macedonia ahead of a World Cup qualifier in November 2016, which was originally due to take place in the northern town of Shkodra. Nine people were eventually charged.

The prosecutor claimed some of those arrested had made contact with Lavdrim Muhaxheri, a former Islamic State commander in Syria who has since reportedly been killed, Reuters reported.

Plakaj pleaded guilty to making explosives, after half a kilo of materiel for bomb-making was found at his home, according to the report.

Sentences for the two were not announced.

In June, four people were charged with planning to “carry out a terrorist attack against soccer players and fans from Israel who were coming to Albania for the match in November,” Kosovo’s prosecution office said in a press release at the time.

Israel’s Eran Zahavi (center) celebrates after scoring a goal during the World Cup 2018 qualifier football match Albania versus Israel at the Elbasan Arena stadium in Elbasan on November 12, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / GENT SHKULLAKU)

The match eventually took place in Elbasan, about 45 kilometers (28 miles) from the Albanian capital Tirana, under a massive security presence.

Kosovo, a predominantly ethnic Albanian and Muslim country, has been confronted with more than 300 of its citizens waging jihad in Syria and Iraq.

It has subsequently strengthened legislation and attempted to root out radical Islamist networks.

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