Montenegrin state prosecutor Vesna Medenica said on Monday (November 6th) that a group of ethnic Albanians, arrested nearly two months ago, is being investigated on a number of charges, including terrorism.
On the eve of Montenegro’s September 10th parliamentary elections — the first since the country declared its independence from Serbia in early June — 14 ethnic Albanians were arrested in the southern border town of Tuzi. The detainees, including three US citizens, “represented a danger to the people of Montenegro”, according to police.
Reports at the time said that different weapons, including rocket-propelled grenade launchers, mortars, grenades, explosives, machine guns and ammunition, had been found during a raid on houses in the town and in nearby caves.
The members of the group, called The Movement for the Rights of Albanians in Montenegro, were planning terrorist attacks in the area of Tuzi, about 20km south of Podgorica and close to the border with Albania, according to Medenica. The aim of the plan, code-named “Eagle Flight,” was to intimidate the non-Albanian population there and gain autonomy for the region, dominated by ethnic Albanians, the AP quoted the prosecutor as saying.
Listing 18 suspects, a report in the Montenegrin daily Dan suggested on Tuesday that members of the group are being investigated on charges including involvement in terrorism and activities, aimed at upsetting the constitutional order and security.
Some of the financial support the group received allegedly came from members of the Albanian diaspora in the West, mainly from immigrants in the United States, which helped it secure the weapons, munitions, forged documents and other means needed to carry out the plans.
Italian news agency AKI also quoted Medenica as saying the group maintained close ties with former members of the now disbanded Kosovo Liberation Army, with whom it planned to carry out joint terrorist attacks.
Ethnic Albanians account for about 5% of Montenegro’s population of 620,000 people and are generally on good terms with the government.
Following the September arrests, an ethnic Albanian party leader in Tuzi said they were “politically motivated,” as most of the suspects were either party supporters or candidates.
“Life does not halt in the days before the elections,” the BBC quoted Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic as commenting at the time, rejecting the accusations. “Thieves steal on these days, murderers kill … and those ready to execute terrorist actions are preparing for that.”
Commenting on some of the detainees’ reported claims that they had been tortured by police officers while in custody, Medenica promised such allegations would be investigated. If proven, those who mistreated the suspects would be punished, she said.