- Title: Security threat prompts Albania to relocate soccer match with Israel
- Date: 9th November 2016
- Summary: ELBASAN, ALBANIA (NOVEMBER 9, 2016) (REUTERS) "ELBASAN ARENA" STADIUM POLICEMAN CHECKING A MAN ON BICYCLE VARIOUS OF POLICEMEN PATROLLING SIGN READING (Albanian): "WELCOME TO ELBASAN ARENA" STADIUM ATHLETES STRETCHING STADIUM PEOPLE PASSING/POLICE VAN POLICE VAN OUTSIDE THE STADIUM
- Embargoed: 24th November 2016 17:21
- Keywords: soccer Albania security threat
- Location: TIRANA, ELBASAN, ALBANIA
- City: TIRANA, ELBASAN, ALBANIA
- Country: Albania
- Topics: Sport
- Reuters ID: LVA00157Q7YH3
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Albania has moved Saturday's World Cup European Group G qualifier with Israel from the northern city of Shkoder to a venue near the capital Tirana due to security concerns, the Israeli Football Association said on Tuesday (November 8).
Israel's counter-terrorism bureau issued a statement saying that a number of people identified as having links to Islamic State militants had been arrested "in the Balkans" over the past week on the suspicion that they were planning attacks.
It said the Albania-Israel soccer fixture was one of the intended targets of the detained suspects and others connected to them, and advised Israeli fans not to travel to the match, citing a "Level 2... high, concrete threat".
Israel Radio said earlier that Albanian security forces had made at least four arrests and that a security detail that always accompanies the Israeli national team abroad would be beefed up.
Albanian media quoted a prosecutor as saying that four suspects were arrested after security agencies checked information forwarded by the Israeli secret service.
In a closed court session, the suspects denied any wrongdoing and said they were being punished only for their belief in Islam, the prosecutor was quoted as saying.
The Albanian Interior Ministry declined comment on the arrests. A source familiar with the matter told Reuters "their plan was not to hit the Israeli players or members of their support staff directly, but cause mayhem in the stands".
Newspapers reported that the suspects were linked to a group arrested in neighbouring Kosovo on Saturday on the suspicion of planning attacks in the Balkans and receiving instructions from militants in Syria.
The biggest-selling Albanian daily Panorama reported that the Israeli and Albanian security services believed the four "were trying to secure explosive devices and introduce them into the soccer stadium in Shkoder".
Albanian media said Albanian security services had monitored calls the suspects made with members of Islamic State in Syria.
"Following the request by the Albanian FA to FIFA to move the match against Israel from Shkoder due to security concerns, FIFA has ruled (that it be moved) ... and the Israeli FA has given its consent," an Israeli FA statement said.
The game will take place at Elbasan Arena near Tirana.
Albania and Israel lie third and fourth respectively in Group G and each have six points from three matches. Spain top the group with seven points, ahead of Italy, who also have seven points.
Albanian Coach Gianni De Biasi sees Israel as the main team to beat if Albania wants to secure third place in the group as he believes his team cannot surpass Spain and Italy.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
- Copyright Notice: (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2016. Open For Restrictions - http://about.reuters.com/fulllegal.asp
- Usage Terms/Restrictions: None