Albanian Government Denies Claims of ISIS Fighters Camp in Albania

Albanian Premier Rama and Austrian Chancellor Kurz in Vienna
Albanian Premier Rama and Austrian Chancellor Kurz in Vienna

Tirana, Albania | June 12 (Tirana Echo) – The Albanian Government has dismissed media allegations that the small Balkan country is to host a camp of former ISIS fighters in its territory, calming public concerns over a possible threat to national security.

According to the government, the only centre that has been established is the Co-ordination Centre against Violent Extremism, whose purpose of activity is not to turn into a hub for rehabilitating returning foreign terrorist fighters, but rather to serve as an analysis centre into the phenomenon of violent extremism and radicalization.

Responding to public concerns over social media, Prime Minister Edi Rama said that there was ‘nothing true in the opposition’s claims, as the opposition was turning fantasy into mud-slinging’.

In addition to the PM, President Ilir Meta said ‘Albania’s national security was not under threat’ when asked to comment on the issue during a recent visit in Pustec.

Government officials said Albania has tabled the proposal to turn this center in to a regional hub for developing analysis, assessments, research, exchange of information as well as joint programs against violent extremism. However, this center is neither, nor can it be, nor has anyone has ever thought to turn it into a relocation center for former ISIS militants.

Speaking on TV last night, national security adviser to the prime minister Sander Lleshi said ‘there is no plan, idea, request or opportunity for something like this. It is simply all about the Coordination Centre against Violent Extremism, which was also the host of the international conference a few days ago, where the Prime Minister of Bulgaria attended.’

The statements follow media reports that the Albanian government had already expressed its willingness to the European Union member countries to host any illegal migrants and former terrorists coming from the Middle East and South Asia, who are expelled from them.

Allegations were further fueled by a recent statement of Bulgarian prime minister Boyko Borissov who during a recent visit to Tirana said that “Albania will become a coordination center for fighters returning from ISIS to the Balkans”.

Borissov’s statement prompted opposition parties to immediately accuse prime minister Rama of jeopardizing Albania’s national security by expressing his readiness to his Austrian counterpart, during a recent visit in Vienna earlier this month.

Kosovo and former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia are other countries mentioned as potential locations for other refugee camps.

Asked by reporters, Democratic Party Chair Lulzim Basha said on Friday that such a decision cannot be left in the hands of a single man like Prime Minister Edi Rama, even more if he intends to use this matter as a treat to distract the EU from the affairs of Tahiri and Xhafaj, and the insufficient fight against organized crime and drugs.

Albania has been used before to host undesirables. In 2005, the United States sent five inmates from Guantanamo Bay there. Between 2013 and 2016, Washington also relocated 2,901 Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) extremists there from Iraq, which had been trying to expel them since 2003.

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