Albanian Imam Charged with Inciting JihadTirana | 13 October 2009 | Besar Likmeta
Albanian authorities arrested a local imam, Artan Kristo, on charges of inciting terrorist acts on Monday afternoon, in the port city of Durres.
Artan Kristo, a.k.a Muhamed Abdullah
In a press statement, the General Prosecutor's Office said that the investigation into Kristo's activities started in July and is ongoing, underlining that enough information had been gathered to warrant his arrest.
Kristo, also know as Muhamed Abdullah, is accused of “publicly inciting and propagating terrorist acts”. He is also charged with calling for jihad in the AlbSelafi.net online forum.
While historically Albanians have practiced a traditional, tolerant form of Sunni and Bektashi Islam, now a third, more radical school is gradually being introduced.
According to observers, the Selefi sect of Islam, which currently enjoys the adherence of a small minority in Albania, associated with imams who mostly studied in the Middle East after the collapse of communism, has been persistently seeking to gain control of Albania's Muslim Community, AMC, the country's leading Islamic organisation.
In a paper published in August 2008 for the Advanced Research and Assessment Group of the British Defence Department, historian Miranda Vickers argues that the Selefi sect is garnering increasing support in Albania from young men favouring a stricter, more rigorous interpretation of Islam, as practiced in some Arab states.
Kristo had formerly worked in 2002 as a representative of the El-Haramain Foundation, an Islamic charity with alleged ties to Al-Qaida. The El-Haramain offices in Albania were closed in 2004 and the charity banned, after its inclusion on the US State Department's terrorist watch list.
Since the mid-1990s thousands of young Sunni Muslim Albanians have travelled to Arab and Asian countries on educational scholarships, with many returning to Albania having embraced different religious schools to the Hanefi, which is traditionally predominant in the Balkans.
A secret service official in Tirana told Balkan Insight that the activities of "Islamic radicals were being closely monitored as a serious threat to national security." Albania's Secret Service, SHISH, has been closely cooperating with the CIA since the 2001 attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Centre.
Kristo was previously named as a suspect in the murder of the deputy-chair of the AMC, Salih Tivari, on January 13, 2003, and has been detained and questioned by police.
Tivari, a 58-year-old lawyer, was shot twice in his office in Tirana. He was one of the most prominent Islamic leaders in Albania ....