IBNA Special Report
Tirana, September 5, 2014/Independent Balkan News Agency
A lot of work is being done in the recent days in Tirana in order for the Pope’s visit to be accompanied by a festive décor. Several buildings are being restored in the center, while in the suburbs, several monuments, in particular that of Mother Teresa, are undergoing rehabilitation. Everything is being done for the visit of Pope Francis on September 21.
In Shkoder, which is known as “the Albanian catholic cradle”, T-shirts with the photos of the Pope and writings “Welcome Pope Francis”, “He’s our Pope”, etc., are being sold. Meanwhile, the element of the Eagle and red and black colors are also present.
The first European visit of the Pope started with Albania and authorities in Tirana feel proud about this, mentioning it in every occasion that arises.
Although the main motive that the Pope is coming to Tirana before going anywhere else in Europe relates to the fact that religious communities live in harmony, the fear for an attempt against him exists.
The fact that several hundreds of Albanians from Albania and Kosovo are active in the ISIS war and the strong suspicions that many others support them, has forced secret services and police to take special security measures.
Sources from secret services have answered with a definite “no” to the question as to whether there’s a danger with the Pope’s visit in Albania. Of course we’re expecting everything to go well and for nothing bad to happen, but the preliminary measures are not only a routine standard, they’re also increasing due to the current atmosphere, says a source of State Informative Services (SHISH).
Media: Rama told INTERPOL that Albania cannot provide security for the Pope’s visit
In Albania, there are no official public declarations about the security of the Pope’s visit to Albania. Nevertheless, like it happened in the case of the chemical weapons, it’s the foreign media that publishes declarations of Albanian senior officials. “Corriere della Sera” said that “The Albanian government and secret services have signaled INTERPOL on the fear for the Pope’s safety in Tirana due to a large group of Kosovars, war veterans against Serbia, who have embraced Islamic fundamentalism by visiting Iraq and Syria, where they fight alongside ISIS”.
“Israeli sources have informed all intelligence agencies, including Italian ones, that the presence of extremists in the Albanian territory, connected with the so called Islamic State, has increased. These sources believe that the Pope, the highest representative of Christian Catholics, has been “targeted” by ISIS”.
Measures for the Pope and the decision to hold the visit
Pope Francis has read a report from the secretary of the Vatican State, which contained an analysis of the situation and the information of the nuncio in Tirana over this issue. After this, he received the head of the Vatican Gendarmerie, Domenico Giani, who is responsible for the head of the security of the state of Vatican and the Pope in particular. They confirmed that the visit would take place.
“This is your job”, declared the Pope, referring to the risk reports coming from Albania. “In other words, I trust you will do your job, but I will go to Albania”.
He has expressed the main reasons why he will visit the small former communist country after his visit in South Korea. “I’m going to Albania, first of all, because they managed to have a government and if you think about it, we’re talking about the Balkan. A government of national unity between Muslims, Orthodox and Catholics with an interreligious committee which helps a lot and is balanced. The presence of the Pope is to tell all countries that: “We can collaborate!”. I consider it as a big help for the people of that country”.
The Vatican confirms the visit: No danger at all, we’re calm
The Vatican reacted after the alarm given for possible attacks during the visit of Pope Francis in Albania. The Secretary of the Vatican State, Pietro Parolin, said yesterday that there’s nothing to worry about and that the Pope will continue his agenda as normal.
“We’re not at all concerned about the visit of Pope Francis in Tirana on September 21. He will hold his agenda normally. We have not discovered any elements of danger in Albania”, said he.
According to him, the visit will not see any changes in the program, applying standard procedures of security through constant contacts between the Vatican security authorities and Albania.
“There will not be any special restrictions during the direct meeting of the Pope with the crowd, as it’s the style of the Holy Father”, declared Parolin.
When Rome comes to Tirana
Officially, for SHISH, Albanian secret service and AKI, intelligent service of Kosovo, everything is under control. But, in Pristina and Tirana, a lot is being talked about September 21. Jihadists have always declared that the ultimate goal is to go to Rome. But if Rome is in Tirana on 21 September, even for a few hours, the goal becomes easier.
Under these suspicions, SHISH and AKI are trying to analyze information and images, posts in social networks and telephone calls in order to understand what’s happening among Islamic communities in both Albanian speaking countries.
It’s the social network which in the past two years has been exploited to establish and maintain links with the scope of fighting in Syria and Iraq. There are at least 600 Albanians who have undertaken this incentive, where some of them have lost their lives.
SHISH is vigilant
State Informative Service, along with agencies of neighboring countries, have increased observation for all those people who have participated in the war of Syria.
Foreign services have demanded to Albanian authorities to warn field agents to be more careful with these persons in order to identify and prevent every event organized by different extremists who act in Albania or abroad.
Part of the observation of police and SHISH are also relatives of people who have not come back to Albania and continue to be part of ISIS rebels in Syria and Iraq.
Currently, there are 35 people who have returned to the Albanian territory, after participating in the Syrian fights. All of them are being kept under surveillance in the places where they live, including potential contacts that they have inside and outside Albania.
Anti-terror measures have spread not only in Tirana, but in other cities too, such as in Elbasan, Shkoder, Peqin, Pogradec, Bulqiza, Cerrik and Librazhd, where suspects are being held under surveillance to prevent any potential terrorist act during the Pope’s visit on September 21.
SHISH suspects that the presence of the Pope in Tirana may offer an opportunity to strike in any manner, even in the most spectacular one. “We’re working to avoid every threat and to guarantee maximum security. You will see that everything will go well”, says a SHISH representative. /ibna/