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Kosovo Sentences Eight Men To Prison Over Plot To Attack Israeli Soccer Team

Kosovo police officers stand guard as the convicted plotters are sentenced in Pristina on May 18.
Kosovo police officers stand guard as the convicted plotters are sentenced in Pristina on May 18.

A court in Kosovo has sentenced eight men to prison on terrorism charges after they were convicted of plotting to attack Israel’s national soccer team and fans during a match in Albania in 2016.

The Pristina court on May 18 sentenced the men, all of whom are from Kosovo, to prison terms ranging from 18 months to 10 years each. A ninth person was fined 2,500 euros but not sentenced to prison.

The men were among 19 people detained in Kosovo, Albania, and Macedonia ahead of the World Cup qualifying match between Albania and Israel in November 2016.

The match was originally scheduled to take place in the Albanian city of Shkoder but was moved to Elbasan because of security concerns.

Police in Kosovo eventually charged nine of the men for plotting a series of "synchronized terror attacks" in Kosovo and Albania inspired by the Islamic State (IS) militant group.

"They were planning to commit terrorist attacks in Kosovo and also against [the] Israeli football team and their fans during the Albania-Israel match," Kosovo police said at the time.

Three of the men pleaded guilty, with at least one of them admitting that he had made explosives after bomb-making material was found at his home.

The Kosovar state prosecutor said some of the men had contacts with Lavdrim Muhaxheri, a self-proclaimed commander of ethnic Albanians fighting with the IS extremist group. Police and family members said Muhaxheri was killed in Syria in June 2017.

Kosovo has a majority ethnic-Albanian and Muslim population, and some of its citizens have been arrested after returning from Syria and Iraq, where they allegedly joined and fought with the IS group and other extremist groups.

With reporting by The Times of Israel and Reuters