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SUN, 10 FEB 2002 20:21:50 GMT

The Fall of "Al Qaede" Twin Towers in Tirana

AIM Tirana, February 7, 2002

Two tallest buildings the media have christened "twin towers" dominate the centre of Albania's capital. Their name, unlike the ones in New York, is by ironic coincidence linked not to destruction but their construction by businessmen connected with Islamic terrorist organisations. The public was surprised by the fact that the police and the judiciary in Albania had not raised more dust when the court in Tirana revealed and struck a serious blow to the financial interests of "Al Qaede" in Albania by confiscating the two 17-storey towers in construction in the capital of Albania.

According to the Albanian public prosecutor's office, the reason for confiscation is that the owner and the person who ordered construction of the twin towers that are built just the opposite from the seat of the Prime Minister is Jasin Kadi from Saudi Arabia who is suspected of being in connection with international terrorism and its financier. Not just the police and the prosecutor resorted from giving much publicity to this fact, but even political parties, which usually tend to politicise even the most ordinary crimes in mutual attacks, were this time reluctant to use the "scandal of twin towers" in Tirana in mutual accusations on connections with Islamic terrorists or support to them. The discovery of such significant presence of a suspected terrorist from Saudi Arabia in Albanian finances and business, in which it possesses a few powerful companies and in just two banks in Tirana - the Arabic-Islamic Bank and the Malaysian Bank - it transferred up to three million dollars, shocked the state agencies and Albanian public. Its spread presence in this country, not only as the main share-holder of the twin towers, but also as the owner of a few pharmaceutical companies, construction enterprises etc. operating in Albania focused attention on the unpleasant fact that the preference of the sponsor of "Al Qaeda" for the establishment of a powerful financial and industrial network in the poorest state in the Balkan for the purpose of financing terrorist activities is much greater than it was believed in the beginning. This was revealed after the control and blocking of his bank accounts in Tirana.

In a speech held on January 21 in Albanian parliament in order to report on the measures of the Government in the struggle against international terrorism, Prime Minister Ilir Meta made it public that the prosecutor's office of Albania is investigating 16 persons suspected of financial connections with terrorist organisations. The director of the state agency in charge of the struggle against money laundry in the Ministry of Order stated to the press that this Ministry had received from American state administration a long list of 300 subjects in Tirana who were accused of money laundry and connections with the world of international terrorism and crime.

Indeed, there is a contradiction between the very strong pro-Western policy pursued by the Government in Tirana in order to establish very close cooperation with the West and the interest of persons or Arab and non-Arab organisations with terrorist links to create strongholds and financial deposits in Albania. It seems that this is the result of a few factors. First, the long ten-year period of difficult post-communist transition characterised by political and government crises, created a chronic weakness of the police, the prosecutor's office and the courts, that favoured dubious businessmen with local and international connections. Second, as a country that introduced free market economy with a big delay, Albania has just begun with big business such as construction which is, it is well known, one of the favourite branches of Mafia and terrorist groups for money laundry.

In fact, there is an explanation for the lack of enthusiasm of the police and the prosecutor's office because of the attack against the financial bases of international terrorists. This attack is more the result of the operations and the efficiency of American investigative authorities than of Albanian authorities. Indeed, it should be said that ever since September 24 last year the name of Jasin Kadi, main owner of the twin towers in Tirana, has been on the list of persons whose property was blocked by the order of the White House because of connections with "Al Qaeda" organisation. Their current accounts, along with those of other suspects in Albanian banks, were blocked only after documentation had arrived from the USA. In an interview to Arab Ash - Shark al Ausat on January 23, the mentioned suspect Jasin Kadi who is at the moment in Saudi Arabia, rejected accusations of Tirana and declared that this was American revenge, because the same blockade of his property was carried out in American companies.

On the other hand, it should be taken into account that from the political aspect, Jasin Kadi's financial bases in Tirana were attacked at the moment of not very convenient regional climate. Prime Minister of Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, L. Georgijevski, accused Tirana in the beginning of January of supporting terrorism. He and high Government officials in Belgrade and in Moscow were constantly trying to create the impression that the Albanians support Islamic terrorism in the Balkan. Confiscation of the twin towers and blocking of financial means of Mr. Kadi who is a citizen of Saudi Arabia is dangerous because it could be used by those who make these accusations.

However, there is also the fact that the accusations that were arriving from the neighbouring officials about the connections of the Albanian state with terrorist operations have never been taken seriously by the USA, NATO or the EU, which not only have more sources and possibilities of information, but are also to a large extent present in many institutions of the Albanian state. NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson, who visited Albania a few days ago, publicly rejected all the accusations addressed at Tirana for possible terrorist connections. The West seems to be more convinced in the clear disassociation of Government policy in Tirana from every form of sponsoring organisations or associations with terrorist inspiration. For experts, Albania was put on the map of financial bases of terrorist connections equally as tens of other states in Europe, America or Asia. What can be said after the attack against "Twin towers" and bank accounts of "Al Qaeda" in Tirana is that the state agencies in Albania are reacting in accordance with the engagement of Albania as a country which considers itself part of the anti-terrorist coalition.

Arjan LEKA

(AIM)