This article has been written for Albanian Free Press newspaper and www.afp.al
By Plator Nesturi
Yesterday’s events in Tirana, where an explosion took place in a mobile phone shop, has led authorities to suspect that the blast has taken place while a bomb connected to a mobile phone was being manufactured. This is one of the main leads that police mention. They also mention the possibility that the explosive substance may have been placed in the mobile phone beforehand, while the device had been taken to be repaired. While authorities need to conduct further investigations on this, the case in question makes the issue of terrorism resurface once again, meaning that in the country there is a market where bombs are manufactured and used and these bombs are not just used for criminal acts, but they also cause significant damages to civil population. The best case to illustrate this is the event that took place in Shkodra two weeks ago, where a blast caused the wounding of six people who happened to be at the place where the explosion occurred.
Up until now, these events have been treated as criminal cases, where different groups involved in illicit activities settle debts with each other, but they are also treated as cases of explosion in business premises due to competition. But all over the world, explosive blasts, where lives of innocent people are put in danger, are considered to be cases of terrorism. And in this aspect, the reason or the motive why this happens doesn’t really matter. So, they can have a religious motive, an ethnic motive, an ideological motive, but it may also occur for reasons of rivalry between gang groups. However, in every case, they would be considered to be terrorist acts.
One of the main criteria that the EU has set out for Albania as a priority to be met is the “fight against organized crime, traffic of narcotics and terrorism”. In political debates and on the media, we have often heard the issue of organized crime and traffic of narcotics being mentioned, but the issue of the fight against terrorism has been mentioned very little. We have often related the problem of terrorism in Albania with the participation of Albanian nationals in Syria alongside ISIS and as an element which is mainly linked to the propaganda being spread by these groups. A trial was also held against a group of imams and individuals in Tirana and Kosovo, who encouraged different people to join ISIS in Syria. But there was also a strong reaction and a displacement of the match between Albania and Israel from Shkoder to Elbasan, following a tip off that there could be a terrorist attack in the stadium. Meanwhile, the subject of terrorism seems to have disappeared from the media vocabulary. Meanwhile, it is known that when attacked, terrorism becomes more sophisticated.
If we consider the reports issued by foreign police agencies, especially after different terrorist attacks in Europe, there’s a growing concern that groups dealing with the traffic of narcotic substances to European coasts, also transport military weapons and ammunition. There’s a strong suspicion that these armaments are not only destined for organized crime, but there’s also the risk that they may be used by terrorist groups operating in European countries. In this aspect, there’s added pressure on Albanian authorities to fight traffic routes, which are not only related to drugs, but also to weapons that can be smuggled across the border. In a recent media interview, while presenting the work done by police, minister Xhafa singled out the work being done by law enforcement agencies against terrorism, as, according to him, this issue is not mentioned very often on the media. This makes us believe that nevertheless, we remain a country which is threatened not only by conflicts which are settled through the use of explosives, but also by terrorist acts. So far, terrorism has been seen as something exotic, which happens away from us, somewhere in the East and that we have only taken cautious measures against the introduction of ideologies which may be sponsored from abroad. In fact, many portals are alleged to be sponsored by money coming from countries where terrorism is a tangible reality. But we must not forget that since the moment when it was decided to accept in Albania 3000 mujahedeen, who oppose the Iranian government, there’s an added interest for Albania from Iran, not only in terms of subsidizing portals. This means that we’re not very far from hot zones. And this requires a bigger engagement by authorities in order not to allow terrorism to find any space here.
Note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Albanian Free Press’ editorial policy