Eight Islamists were sentenced today by a court in Kosovo to up to 10 years in prison for planning a terrorist attack in 2016 against the Israeli football team and its supporters before a match in Albania. “They are guilty (…) of having planned to commit an attack against Israeli footballers and supporters,” Judge Hamdi Ibrahimi said in a verdict in a court in Pristina, the capital.
Most of them are Kosovo Albanians, except one who is an Albanian from Macedonia. The match, a World Cup 2018 qualifier, should have taken place in November 2016 in Shkodra, in the north of Albania, but it finally went ahead in Elbasan, in the center of the country, for security reasons.
The leader of the group, Visar Ibishi, 38, was sentenced to 10 years in prison, while five other prominent members were sentenced to three to six years. Ibishi and three other defendants refused to attend the verdict and remained in their cell. Two defendants who pleaded guilty at the beginning of the trial in mid-2017, were sentenced to 18 months in prison each.
A ninth accused, who also pleaded guilty, was sentenced to a fine of 2,500 euros. According to the judge, “they had decided to place the explosive below a bridge at the entrance of Shkodra”, on a road between the airport and the city, and to activate it as the column of cars with the Israeli team and supporters passed by.
The Kosovar police intercepted communications between members of the group.
They had also planned to carry out attacks in Kosovo against the country’s political leaders and diplomats, Judge Ibrahimi said.
About 90% of Kosovo’s 1.8 million people are Muslim, the overwhelming majority of whom practice moderate Islam. However, several hundred Kosovars, mostly young people, have joined the ranks of Islamists, including the Islamic State group in Syria. Half of them were killed in the fighting, according to the authorities.