Montenegro releases 4 Albanian terror suspects

A Montenegro court released four ethnic Albanians held on suspicion they planned terrorist attacks against the state, a prosecutor said Friday.

But the court extended custody for 10 other ethnic Albanian suspects arrested at the same time, on the eve of the nation’s September elections, said Stojanka Radovic, special prosecutor for organized crime.

Three of those still held are U.S. citizens, she said.

Radovic told The Associated Press that the group, scooped up in a special forces’ operation dubbed “Eagle Flight,” are accused of seeking to destabilize Montenegro after it became independent from Serbia.

“The custody for the 10 was extended because of the very real possibility they could flee the country and because of the seriousness of the crimes they are suspected of,” Radovic said.

There is also a standing arrest warrant for three other ethnic Albanians believed to belong to the same group but who are currently at large.

No official charges have been made against the suspects.

On Monday, another Montenegrin prosecutor, Vesna Medenica, said the group had detailed plans for terrorist attacks aimed at intimidating the non-ethnic-Albanian population in a southwestern region close to neighboring Albania and that they had formed a secret organization to carry out this plot.

Authorities had seized a weapons cache, including rifles, hand grenades and rocket-propelled grenade launchers with the group.

The suspects’ aim allegedly was to win autonomy for the small, southeastern area of Montenegro where the ethnic Albanians form a local majority. They were believed to be partly financed by the ethnic Albanian diaspora living in the West.

About 7 percent of Montenegro’s 620,000 people are ethnic Albanian, generally have good relations with the government and have long had their lawmakers in the tiny nation’s parliament.

Leaders of Montenegro’s ethnic Albanian community have dismissed the accusations as unfounded and politically motivated. Five of the 14 initially jailed men complained of being tortured while in police custody. Amnesty International has urged the authorities to investigate those allegations.

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