Albanian State Police (ASP), trained and equipped by the Department’s Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) program, have arrested a suspected terrorist whom German authorities accuse of belonging to an ISIS cell in Germany.
Officers with the ASP Counterterrorism Directorate detained 24-year-old Komron Zukhurov on the evening of April 29, 2020. The suspect, a citizen of Tajikistan, had been staying with relatives in Tirana.
Two weeks earlier, on April 15, police in Germany arrested four other Tajiks who allegedly were part of the same terrorist cell and who had joined ISIS in January 2019. A fifth Tajik, their alleged leader, was already in police custody in Germany.
German police said the ISIS cell had obtained firearms and ammunition, as well as precursor chemicals and directions for making explosive devices. According to German police, to finance their terrorist activities, the Tajiks had agreed to a murder-for-hire plot targeting a businessman in Albania for $40,000, but that the murder scheme failed.
On April 21, 2020, a federal court in Karlsruhe, Germany issued an international warrant for Zukhurov’s arrest alleging that he had participated in a foreign terrorist organization. Zukhorov reportedly had lived in Germany for two years before returning to his home country. But on February 17, 2020, he departed Tajikistan again and flew to Tirana International Airport. Ten days later, German authorities alerted their Albanian counterparts that they believed Zukhurov had entered Albania.
In what Albanian State Police dubbed “Operation Visitor,” members of the Investigational and Coordinating Unit, Counterterrorism Special Operations Unit, Financial Investigational Unit, and Terrorism Screening and Security Unit – all sub-units of the ASP Counterterrorism Directorate trained by ATA — began their search for the suspect.
The investigators confirmed that Zukhurov had entered the country, and they identified a family member in Tirana who was hosting him. Officers with the Financial Investigational Unit identified locations where Zukhurov had conducted financial transactions. Through open-source research and analysis, the Terrorism Screening and Security Unit discovered photographic evidence that Zukhurov was in the country and identified a location in Kukes, some 90 miles northeast of Tirana, where he might be staying.
ATA-trained members of the Counterterrorism Operational Unit placed the villa in Kukes as well as another home in the capital under surveillance and waited.
On April 29, the counterterrorism police observed a car with multiple individuals depart the villa in Kukes and kept it under surveillance as it drove to the capital. Officers observed the vehicle entering the garage of the building where Zukhurov’s relatives reside. Several hours later, police saw Zukhurov and two other individuals leave the building and walk down the street. After making a positive identification of the wanted suspect, officers moved in and apprehended Zukhurov without incident. An Albanian court ruled that Zukhurov should remain in provisional detention until judicial authorities complete the paperwork for his extradition to Germany.
The ASP units involved in the arrest used skills acquired through a suite of progressive ATA courses and mentorships designed as part of an ongoing, multiyear program plan implemented by DS, and designed and funded by the Bureau of Counterterrorism (CT) through the Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund (CTPF). Assistance included topics such as investigation techniques on foreign terrorist fighters, surveillance and counter surveillance, open-source monitoring, management of terrorist investigations, identification and seizure of digital evidence, and digital forensics investigations. The investigating units also have received ATA equipment grants, such as computer forensics equipment and software.