The 21st Century Phenomenon


In 1998, prior to the attacks on US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, on 08/07/1998, the USA government moved against a group of alleged Islamic militants living in Tirana, the capital of Albania, in the Balkans. The Albanian secret police, in cooperation with the CIA, monitored a group of Islamic militants, many of them from Egypt, for several years and observed members carrying out various low-level criminal activities, such as counterfeiting and the production of fake passports and visas.

The Albanian intelligence also took careful note as the men engaged in activities that seemed to be in preparation for possible armed attacks, such as the casing of the USA Embassy in Tirana. The local Tirana cell kept up regular contact with other exile militants in Yemen and elsewhere, and allegedly sent funds collected from the earnings of the Tirana group abroad.

In 07/1998, Albanian and USA agents made their move. In all five alleged militants were captured, one was killed in a shoot-out with Albanian security. The four captured militants, Ahmad al-Naggar, the ringleader, Shawqi Salama Mustafa, Muhammad Hassan Mahmud Tita and Ahmad Ismail Uthman, were questioned by USA agents and then handed over to Egypt’s authorities (see – Extraordinary Rendition).

In the same month, the CIA reportedly also rendered a fifth suspect, Essam Abdel Tawab Abdel Alim, from the Bulgarian capital Sofia to Cairo.

Two of the rendered suspects, Ahmad al-Naggar and Ahmad Ismail Uthman, had previously been sentenced to death in absentia by Egyptian military tribunals in 03/1994 and 10/1997 respectively.

Once the five men were returned to Egypt, they were all kept incommunicado, away from other Islamists, then being tried in the ALBANIAN-TRIAL.

All five members of the Tirana Cell were tortured, according to the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights.

Ahmad al-Naggar and Ahmad Ismail Uthman were executed on the morning of 02/23/2000, on the basis of their earlier convictions and death sentences by military tribunals in 1994 and 1997.

Essam Abdel Tawab Abdel Alim received a fifteen-year sentence, Shawqi Salama Mustafa received a twenty-five year imprisonment and Muhammad Hassan Mahmud Tita was sentenced to ten years in prison.  

In all, 80 of the 107 Albanian Trial defendants were convicted and nine were sentenced to death in absentia. Among those handed death sentences in absentia were Ayman Al Zawahiri, his brother Muhammad al-Zawahiri, and Abdel Aziz Musa Dawud al-Gamal, who was among those transferred from Yemen in 2004 as part of the Egyptian-Yemeni swap for former Yemeni Brigadier General Ahmad Salim Ubaid


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