Italy was a participant or observer in the following events:
At a conference of their ambassadors, the six Great Powers (Austria-Hungary, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, and the United Kingdom) decide to create an independent and neutral Albanian kingdom, with no ties to the Ottomans. Under a July 29 agreement, the Great Powers nominate the prince of Albania, run the government and budget of Albania for a renewable term of 10 years, and create an Albanian gendarmerie, under Swedish Army officers. The conference also decides Albania’s borders. In addition to demanding a commercial port on the Adriatic Sea, which the conference quickly accepts, Serbia wants its border to extend from Lake Ohri, along the Black Drin River to the White Drin River, which excludes Kosova and parts of Macedonia with an Albanian population. Montenegro wants its border to be on the Mat River, or at least the Drin River, giving it parts of northern Albania. Greece wants its border to begin at the city of Vlora and include Gjirokastra and Korca in southern Albania. The Albanian government in Vlora wants Albania to unite all Albanian populated areas, including Kosova, parts of Macedonia and Montenegro, and the Greek region of Cameria. Austria and Italy support the Albanian position, but lose to Russia, which supports Serbia. Instead of giving Shkodra to Montenegro, the conference leaves it in Albania, Montenegro keeps what it was given by the Berlin Congress in the summer of 1878, and Kosova is given to Serbia. Sir Edward Grey makes a five-part proposal to settle the border with Greece. A commission is empowered to go to the area and settle the border, and recommends that Korca and Sazan, an island near Vlora, be given to Albania. The occupation forces, especially the Greeks, hamper the commission. The Florence Protocol in December 1913 gives Cameria, which Greece calls Northern Epirus, to Greece. At the other end of Albania, a commission attempts to implement an agreement from March 22, and modified April 14. Serbia continues to occupy northern Albania, leading to an Albanian backlash there in September and October. Serbia says there is a need for its occupation forces in the region, but Austria-Hungary threatens military force if Serb forces do not leave within eight days. The commission leaves the issue there because of winter and then the start of World War I the next summer. [Kola, 2003, pp. 13-16]
Entity Tags: United Kingdom, Austria-Hungary, Albania, Edward Grey, France, Germany, Montenegro, Serbia, Russia, Macedonia, Italy, Greece
Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle
Bulgaria, Greece, Montenegro, Serbia, and the Ottomans sign a peace treaty to end the 1912 Balkan war, allowing the six major powers of Europe to decide Albania’s status. Proposals were discussed months earlier. In December 1912 a conference of ambassadors headed by UK Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey met in London. They decided to create an autonomous Albania still connected to the Ottomans, but then Macedonia was captured, cutting Albania off from the Ottoman Empire. [Kola, 2003, pp. 13]
Entity Tags: France, Albania, Edward Grey, Austria-Hungary, Germany, Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, United Kingdom, Italy, Serbia, Ottoman Empire, Montenegro, Russia
Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle
Italy and Austria-Hungary nominate German prince Wilhelm zu Wied to rule Albania. Soon after he arrives on March 7, 1914 and creates a government, revolts start in central Albania against minister Esad Pasha Toptani and interference by other countries. [Kola, 2003, pp. 16]
The outbreak of World War I leads to the formation of a new Albanian government backed by Serbia. After Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, Serbia conquered Kosova and much of Albania from Austrian and German forces, as Albanian ruler Wilhelm zu Wied refused Austria-Hungary’s request that Albania join the war on the side of the Central Powers. Wied keeps Albania neutral, but leaves, without abdicating, in September when Austria-Hungary ends his remuneration. Therefore, the Serbs make former Albanian minister Esad Pasha Toptani the ruler of Albania. Following the revolt that spring, Esad lost his ministerial post for an alleged conspiracy and went to Italy and then the Serb capital at Nis. He makes a lone pact with Serb prime minister Nikola Pasic to create a pro-Serbia Albania. Their plan is to establish a customs union, joint military efforts, and joint diplomacy. Funds were given to Esad so influential Albanians could assemble to form an Albanian government, which would then give Serbia rights to create a rail link through Albania to the Adriatic. Allegedly Esad keeps the money for himself. [Kola, 2003, pp. 16-17]
A secret treaty is signed in London between the Entente—comprising Britain, France, and Russia—and Italy, giving Italy the port of Vlora, the nearby island of Sazan (Saseno), and whatever area Italy deems necessary to hold them. If Italy captures Trentin, Istria, Trieste, Dalmatia, and some islands in the Adriatic, France, Russia, and Britain’s plan to split Albania between Greece, Montenegro, and Serbia will go ahead. The border between Greece and Serbia would be west of Lake Ohri. Part of Albania would remain, but its foreign policy would be under Italy’s control. The four signatories are the same ambassadors who signed the treaty that created the Albanian state in 1913. The treaty will be made public by the Bolsheviks in 1917. [Vickers, 1998, pp. 89; Kola, 2003, pp. 17]
Italy decides to support Albania after all, since there is already an Albanian state under Austria-Hungary, France declares the southern city of Korca autonomous, and Greece demands that Korca be given to it. Giacinto Ferrero, commanding Italy’s forces in Albania, proclaims Italian support for an independent Albania in a document that will later become known as the Gjirokastra Proclamation. Just a few weeks later, Italian Foreign Minister Baron Sidney Sonnino will advocate this policy in the Italian parliament. On the contrary, Austria-Hungary wants to unite Kosova and Albania and give southern Albania to Greece. [Kola, 2003, pp. 17-18]
Austria-Hungary, Germany, and Bulgaria are pushed out of Albania following an invasion by the Entente powers. Italy occupies most of Albania as well as Prizren, France takes Pristina, and the Serb army takes Kosova and moves north to liberate Serbia. [Kola, 2003, pp. 18]
Albania is divided up at the peace conference in Paris that follows the end of World War I. The area around Prizren is given to the new Yugoslavia (the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes), southern Albanian areas are given to Greece, and Italy is made the defender of Albania’s territorial integrity. Albania is not represented at the Conference. [Kola, 2003, pp. 18]
Ahmet Muhtar Bey Zogolli proclaims himself Zog I, King of the Albanians, creating an Albanian monarchy. Yugoslavia sees Zog’s title as a claim on all areas populated by Albanians, though scholars believe Zog had given up on Kosova as far back as 1913. This marks Zog’s switch from the pro-Yugoslavia camp to the pro-Italy camp, in return for Italian economic aid. [Kola, 2003, pp. 20]
Vaso Cubrilovic, a historian at Belgrade University and member of Belgrade’s Serbian Cultural Club, and participant in the terrorist Black Hand group in 1914, writes a memorandum, “The Expulsion of the Arnauts” (an archaic word for Albanian in Turkish), building on the Nacertanje plan. He sees Yugoslavia’s Albanians as a strategic threat, dividing Slavic areas and controlling key river routes, “which, to a large degree, determines the fate of the central Balkans.” Cubrilovic’s proposal is justified because of the risk that “a world conflict or a social revolution” in the near future could cause Yugoslavia to lose its Albanian majority areas and because, despite earlier colonization programs, Montenegro is still overpopulated for its hardscrabble farmlands. He says that, given the current world situation, “the shifting of a few hundred thousand Albanians will not lead to the outbreak of a world war.” He foresees opposition from Italy and Albania, but says Italy is preoccupied in Africa, while Zog’s government could be bought off with money. France and the UK are also potential opponents, but he says they should be told expelling Albanians will benefit them. Cubrilovic contrasts prior “Western methods” with his preferred strategy, under which occupation “confers the right to the lives and property of the subject inhabitants.” Cubrilovic believes slow transfer of deeds impeded the prior program. Paulin Kola will later describe the memorandum as “a fuller platform for the colonization of Kosova.” Cubrilovic calls for a range of measures, from enforcing “the law to the letter so as to make staying intolerable,” such as punishments for owning wandering dogs and smuggling, and “any other measures that an experienced police force can contrive,” denying professional permits, rejecting deeds, desecrating graves, and burning villages and neighborhoods, without revealing state involvement. He says clerics and influential Kosovar Albanians should be bribed or coerced to support transfer. He proposes that the new program be implemented by the Army General Staff, a new Institute of Colonization, and a multi-ministry inspectorate. These methods would lead to the deportation and migration of Albanians to Turkey and other countries. Then Montenegrins, who Cubrilovic describes as “arrogant, irascible, and merciless people” who “will drive the remaining Albanians away with their behavior,” would be settled in Kosova. Ethnic conflict would be fanned, to “be bloodily suppressed with the most effective means” by Montenegrin settlers and Chetniks. Yugoslavia’s parliament considers the memorandum on March 7, 1937. Once Turkey agrees to accept deported Yugoslav Albanians, Albanians are limited to an untenable 0.16 hectares for each member of a family, unless their ownership is proven to the satisfaction of the authorities. Two hundred thousand to 300,000 people leave Yugoslavia during this period. Officially, 19,279 Albanians emigrate to Turkey and 4,322 emigrate to Albania between 1927 and 1939, and a few go to Arab countries, while 30,000 Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes emigrate each year. Cubrilovic remains influential in Yugoslavia through World War II. [Vickers, 1998, pp. 116-120; Kola, 2003, pp. 21, 100-104]
Entity Tags: France, Black Hand, Italy, Chetniks, Paulin Kola, Turkey, Belgrade University, Ahmet Zog I, Serbian Cultural Club, Yugoslavia, United Kingdom, Vaso Cubrilovic, Albania
Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle
Addressing the House of Commons, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain says that the UK has “no direct interests” in Albania. Later, Albanian leader Enver Hoxha will say this statement “gave Mussolini a free hand to carry out his plans towards our country.” The next day, Italy will invade Albania (see April 7, 1939). [Hoxha, 1974, pp. 488; Kola, 2003, pp. 22]
Italy occupies Albania, with 50,000 soldiers, 173 ships, and 600 bombers, facing some Albanian civilian volunteers and regular soldiers. The ruling family escapes to Greece and then the UK, though King Zog I does not abdicate. Early on the Italians face resistance from 15,000 Albanians along the coast at Durres, Vlora, Saranda, and Shengjin, as well as inland. Later, 3,000 guerillas seek refugee in the mountains and political resistance begins. Under Italian control, the Constituent Assembly soon proclaims the union of Albania with Italy and invites Italian King Emmanuel III to rule Albania. [Hoxha, 1974, pp. 593-595; Kola, 2003, pp. 22]
In accord with the Vienna pact, Germany takes Trepca for its mines, as well as the Lab, Vucitrn, and Dezevo (Novi Pazar) districts, creating a territory called the Kosovo Department. Security forces composed of, and led by, Albanians are formed—a gendarmerie of about 1,000 and about 1,000 irregulars, called the Vulnetara. Bulgaria annexes the Gnjilane, Kacanik, and Vitin districts. Italy takes much of Kosovo and the towns of Debar, Tetovo, Gostivar, and Struga, about 11,780 square kilometers and 820,000 people. In May this area is merged with Albania, occupied by Italy on April 7, 1939. Albanian forces are raised by the Italian army, Albanian is spoken in government and education for the first time, and the Albanian flag flies in Italian Kosovo. Albanians are able to freely travel through Albanian areas. Serbs and Montenegrins are imprisoned, deported for forced labor, or killed by occupation forces. Many are deported to Pristina and Mitrovica to labor in the mines of Trepca, or to Albania for construction. According to Serbs, Albanian attacks, generally against settlers, force about 10,000 Slavic families to leave Kosovo. Collaboration and resistance groups form throughout the occupied Balkans. [Vickers, 1998, pp. 121-122; Kola, 2003, pp. 22-23]
Abaz Kupi, a supporter of deposed former Albanian King Zog, begins to lead an armed struggle against the occupation of Albania. This is the first armed action since the initial resistance when the Italians invaded in 1939. [Kola, 2003, pp. 27-28]
Following an initial meeting on July 23 in Zall i Herrit, representatives of the National Liberation Council meet with the Balli Kombetar leadership at Mukje, Kruja district, on August 1 and 2. CPA Political Bureau member Ymer Dishnica leads a 12-member delegation, including non-communists Abaz Kupi and Myslim Peza. The Ballist delegation includes their chair, Mit-hat Frasheri. According to Enver Hoxha, the NLC delegation is told that unity must be based on the Balli Kombetar fighting the occupation and not continuing to fight the NLC’s forces or the CPA, then there could be “a broad conference to lay on the table and discuss many problems concerning unity.” Hoxha’s goal is to persuade the Balli Kombetar to fight the Italians and join the NLC, at the same time preventing it from being a rival military and political force. The result of the meeting is a plan to create a Committee for the Salvation of Albania, with each side having six representatives, by August 8. The Committee is to lead the guerrilla war until an independent, democratic, and “ethnic Albania” (including Albanian areas left out of the 1913 borders) is established. The Committee plans to dissolve when a provisional government is established. An election with universal suffrage is planned, to establish a constitutional assembly to determine Albania’s post-liberation government. During this time, Mussolini’s government loses power in Italy, so the delegates also call for a declaration of independence. Each side signs, with final approval pending from their organizations, and a proclamation signed by the Committee and the Ballists, and not mentioning the NLC or fascism, is released. The NLC rejects the agreement. Hoxha later says “Our comrades [at Mukje] did not know how to defend the line of the National Liberation Front, but fell right into the lap of the ‘Balli Kombetar‘… what they talked about there was ‘independent Albania’ and ‘ethnic Albania,’ and the war of today was forgotten.” He sees the proclamation of independence as a Ballist grab for credit and a way to “blot out April 12, 1939, because three quarters of the Ballists had recognized the Accord of the Crown [giving it to Italy], while we had never recognized it.” Yugoslav sources claim Hoxha tries to prevent open armed struggle with the Balli Kombetar. Miladin Popovic reportedly says: “[T]his union [with the Ballists] cannot be accepted. We are being strengthened with each passing day.… Then, this ethnic Albania! Impossible!” Dishnica claims that he acts at Mukje on directives from the CPA leadership. Subsequently, Abaz Kupi abandons the NLC and creates the Legaliteti, arguing that Zog is Albania’s legitimate leader. [Hoxha, 1974, pp. 172-189; Kola, 2003, pp. 41-44]
Entity Tags: Enver Hoxha, Albanian National Liberation Council, Ahmet Zog I, Abaz Kupi, Balli Kombetar, Committee for the Salvation of Albania, Legaliteti, Myslim Peza, Italy, Party of Labor of Albania, Mit’hat Frasheri, Miladin Popovic, Ymer Dishnica
Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle
A second Albanian National Liberation Conference is held and publicly states that the Mukje agreement (see August 1-2, 1943) is “an act that violated the fundamental principles of the Peza Conference and ran counter to the interests of the war and the unity of the Albanian people.” It also decides “to take a clear stand against [the pro-western Balli Kombetar], to expose its anti-national and anti-people policy.” The Ballists are accused of undermining the National Liberation Movement by calling it “a Communist movement,” fanning chauvinism by saying Serbia and Greece are threats, and obstructing the national liberation war. They allow the possibility of cooperation, as long as the Ballists “participate in the uncompromising and relentless war against the invaders” and agree that the national liberation councils are “the sole people’s power.” The Conference states that the way to self-determination for Kosova and Cameria, an Albanian-inhabited region in Greece, is through the national liberation war. The Conference also increases the General Council from the seven representatives elected at Peza to 62, creates rules with the goal of making the NLC into Albania’s legitimate government, and integrates new anti-fascist organizations, such as the Anti-fascist Youth Union. [PLA, 1971, pp. 169-172; Kola, 2003, pp. 57]
Italy surrenders to the Allies, but the Italian commander in Albania tells his forces to surrender to the German military. About 15,000 surrender to the Albanians, and about 1,500 are organized into the “Antonio Gramsci” Battalion of the 1st Storm Brigade of the Albanian National Liberation Army. Meanwhile, about 70,000 German soldiers invade Albania. According to the official PLA history, the Germans say they are liberating Albania from Italy and that they will protect Albanian independence in exchange for Albania joining their anti-communist war. [PLA, 1971, pp. 173-174]
Albania is allowed to participate in the Paris Peace Conference, regarding the post-war settlements between the Allies and Italy, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, and Finland, but is not a full participant, instead being classed with Austria. The Albanian government argues that it was a full member of the Allied effort, fielding 70,000 Albanian Partisans, including 6,000 women, against around 100,000 Italians and 70,000 Germans. It says Italy and Germany suffered 53,639 casualties and prisoners and lost 100 armored vehicles, 1,334 artillery pieces, 1,934 trucks, and 2,855 machine guns destroyed or taken in Albania. Out of its population of one million, Albania says 28,000 were killed, 12,600 wounded, 10,000 were political prisoners, and 35,000 were made to do forced labor. Albania says 850 out of 2,500 of its communities were destroyed by the war.
Disputed by Greece - To oppose Albania’s demands, Greece argues that Albania is at war with it. Greece also claims Gjirokastra and Korca, south of the Shkumbin River, and there is some fighting along the border. By 11 votes to seven, with two abstentions, the conference votes to discuss Greece’s territorial claims. Italian King Victor Emmanuel III blames Albania for the invasion of Greece, and Greece points to a declaration of war by the Albanian occupation government after Daut Hoxha was found murdered at the border in summer 1940.
Hoxha's Address - Enver Hoxha addresses the conference. He points to hundreds of Albanians conscripted by Italy who deserted or joined the Greeks, who then treated them as POWs. Many were later sent to Crete and joined British forces who landed there. Others joined the Albanian Partisans or were captured by Italy, court-martialed for “high treason,” and imprisoned in the Shijak concentration camp. There are other cases of attacks on Italian forces by Albanian soldiers. Hoxha also mentions attacks on Albania by Greeks, such as the over 50 homes in Konispol burned by German soldiers guided by a captain under Greek collaborationist General Napoleon Zervas on September 8, 1943. His forces also joined German forces in their winter 1943-44 Albanian offensive. They invaded and burned again in June 1944. Hoxha refutes Greek claims that Albania is treading on the rights of the Greek minority, which Albania numbers at 35,000. There are 79 schools using Greek, one secondary school, autonomous Greek local government, and Greeks in the government and military. Between 1913 and 1923, Hoxha claims there were 60,000 Albanians in Greece, 35,000 of whom were classified as Turks and deported to Turkey in exchange for Turkish Greeks. In June 1944 and March 1945 Zervas’ forces attacked Greek Albanians, and at least 20,000 fled to Albania. Hoxha will later say that what Albania terms the “monarcho-fascist” Greek government commits 683 military provocations against Albania from its founding to October 15, 1948. Hoxha claims the Greek prime minister tells a Yugoslav official at the Peace Conference that he is open to dividing Albania with Yugoslavia, but Yugoslavia refuses. Hoxha tells the conference, “We solemnly declare that within our present borders there is not one square inch of foreign soil, and we will never permit anyone to encroach upon them, for to us they are sacred.” Italy is accused of harboring Albanian and Italian war criminals, including “fascists” who assassinated an Albanian sergeant at the Allied Mediterranean High Command in Bari in March. The Italian politicians are accused of threatening Albania during recent elections. In conclusion, Hoxha asks that the Peace Conference further limit Italy’s post-war military, claims Italy committed 3,544,232,626 gold francs worth of damage in Albania, and Albania wants to be classified as an “associated power.”
US, British Opposition - These requests are opposed by the UK and US. Albania afterward considers its share of the reparations to be too low. The UK and US will later oppose Albanian participation in the Moscow conference on peace with Germany, held in March-April 1947. An American delegate will say: “We are of the opinion that, first, Albania is not a neighbor of Germany, and second, it did not take part in the war against Germany. Only some individual Albanians, perhaps, took part in this war, but apart from this there were also Albanians who fought side by side with the Germans.” [PLA, 1971, pp. 258; Hoxha, 1974, pp. 539-542, 593-614; Hoxha, 1975, pp. 90-91, 99]
Entity Tags: Turkey, Greece, Germany, Enver Hoxha, Daut Hoxha, Albanian Partisans, Albania, Italy, Napoleon Zervas, Victor Emmanuel III, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Yugoslavia, United States of America, United Kingdom
Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle
Ali Mohamed returns to fight in Afghanistan, even though the Soviets have been defeated and the country is now involved in civil war. He trains rebel commanders in military tactics. This is just one of many such trips, as he later will confess spending several months out of each year training operatives overseas for most of the 1990’s. [New York Times, 12/1/1998; San Francisco Chronicle, 9/21/2001; San Francisco Chronicle, 10/11/2001] US prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald will later say of Mohamed’s visits to Afghanistan, “Mohamed did not [make a loyalty pledge] to al-Qaeda but he trained most of al-Qaeda’s top leadership—including bin Laden and [Ayman] al-Zawahiri—and most of al-Qaeda’s top trainers. Mohamed taught surveillance, counter-surveillance, assassinations, kidnapping, codes, ciphers and other intelligence techniques.” [9/11 Commission, 6/16/2004] FBI agent Jack Cloonan will later say that in addition to bin Laden, others who attend Mohamed’s course are Abu Ubaidah al-Banshiri, al-Qaeda’s first military commander, and Mohammed Atef, its second military commander. [Lance, 2006, pp. 104-105] During this 1992 trip he teaches intelligence tradecraft, later admitting, “I taught my trainees how to create cell structures that could be used for operations.” Also around this time, he is detained by Italian authorities at the Rome airport when airport security discovers his luggage has false compartments. He is let go after convincing the Italians that he is fighting terrorists. [New York Times, 12/1/1998; San Francisco Chronicle, 9/21/2001; San Francisco Chronicle, 10/11/2001] Mohamed will regularly return to Afghanistan in years to come, as part of at least 58 trips overseas leaving from the US. [Chicago Tribune, 12/11/2001] Nabil Sharef, a university professor and former Egyptian intelligence officer, will say, “For five years he was moving back and forth between the US and Afghanistan. It’s impossible the CIA thought he was going there as a tourist. If the CIA hadn’t caught on to him, it should be dissolved and its budget used for something worthwhile.” [Wall Street Journal, 11/26/2001]
Ahmed Idris Nasreddin. [Source: NBC News]A 1995 Italian intelligence report alleges the Switzerland-based Al Taqwa Bank is funding radical groups in Algeria, Tunisia, and Sudan, and is a major backer of Hamas, but Swiss authorities are slow to investigate. [Salon, 3/15/2002; Forward, 10/17/2003] The Italians are interested in Al Taqwa because of its connection to a radical Italian mosque, the Islamic Cultural Institute in Milan, which Al Taqwa founder and director Ahmed Idris Nasreddin helped create and finance in the early 1990s. The mosque is close to Al Taqwa’s headquarters in Lugano, a town on the border between Switzerland and Italy. It is also connected to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and extremists fighting in Bosnia (see Late 1993-1994) and European investigators increasingly suspect that the Milan mosque is an important general recruiting and supply center for al-Qaeda and other radical militant groups. [Newsweek, 3/18/2002] Reportedly, the Italians tell a Swiss prosecutor that Al Taqwa “comprises the most important financial structure of the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamic terrorist organizations.” Italian intelligence also finds links between Al Taqwa and the Milan mosque through Nasreddin. Additionally, two other top officials in the mosque are Al Taqwa shareholders. [Salon, 3/15/2002; Forward, 10/17/2003] Italian officials get the impression that Swiss officials are loathe to look into Al Taqwa. In 1997, the Italians convince a Swiss prosecutor to start questioning Al Taqwa officials. But reportedly, an Al Taqwa lawyer is able to make phone calls to influential people and have the investigation stopped. [Salon, 3/15/2002]
Three Yemeni men are arrested in Turin, Italy. They are connected to planned attacks on US facilities in Europe. They are members of Islamic Jihad, the Egyptian militant group led by al-Qaeda number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Italian police search their apartments and discover beards, wigs, weapons, and contact details for Mohammed Haydar Zammar, a member of the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell. This information is quickly passed to the German domestic intelligence service. Prior to this point, Germany has been investigating Zammar (see March 1997-Early 2000), but apparently they are uncertain if his claims of training in Afghanistan and meeting bin Laden are idle boasts. But after these arrests in Italy, German intelligence will realize Zammar has connections to real terrorists. The surveillance operation on him, and others in the Hamburg cell, will increase in intensity. [Stern, 8/13/2003; Vanity Fair, 11/2004]
The Islamic Cultural Institute in Milan, Italy. [Source: Public domain]By late 1998, US and Italian intelligence are already aware of the importance of a mosque in Milan, Italy, called the Islamic Cultural Institute. After 9/11, the Treasury Department will call the mosque “the main al-Qaeda station house in Europe. It is used to facilitate the movement of weapons, men and money across the world.” Additionally, they are aware that Ahmed Idris Nasreddin, a founder and director of Al Taqwa Bank, is also a founder and financier of the mosque. The mosque is also less than 50 miles away from Al Taqwa’s headquarters on the Swiss border.(see 1995-1997). [Newsweek, 3/18/2002] US officials will later say that al-Qaeda operatives involved in the 1998 US embassy bombings stayed at the Milan mosque. This causes US and Italian intelligence to watch the mosque more closely, and it also causes the US to look closer at Al Taqwa Bank (see 1997-September 11, 2001). [Newsweek, 3/18/2002] One member of the al-Qaeda cell in Milan lives in Hamburg with 9/11 plotter Ramzi bin al-Shibh for most of 1998 (see December 1997-November 1998). In 2000, Abderazek Mahdjoub, the head of the Milan cell, lives in Hamburg, attends the Al-Quds mosque that the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell attends, and has ties with some of the 9/11 hijackers (see 2000). Al-Qaeda operatives involved in the failed millennium bombing plot in Jordan also stay at the Milan mosque (see November 30, 1999). The Jordanian government later will claim that Al Taqwa helped fund these millennium bombers. [Newsweek, 3/18/2002; Newsweek, 4/12/2004] Starting in late 2000, Italian intelligence, wiretapping people associated with the Milan mosque and/or the Milan al-Qaeda cell, record conversations suggesting foreknowledge of the 9/11 plot (see August 12, 2000; January 24, 2001). This information is shared with the US in early 2001 (see March 2001). Additional evidence will come out after 9/11 suggesting some people in Milan had foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks (see September 4, 2001; September 7, 2001). Given the closeness of the Al Taqwa Bank to the mosque, especially through Nasreddin, this raises the possibility of Al Taqwa involvement and knowledge of specific al-Qaeda plots, including the 9/11 attacks, though there is no known evidence of such direct ties except for the attempted millennium bombing mentioned above.
Around this time, US intelligence notes that a man in Hamburg, Germany, named Mohammed Haydar Zammar is in direct contact with one of bin Laden’s senior operational coordinators. Zammar is an al-Qaeda recruiter with links to 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and the rest of the Hamburg terror cell. The US had noted Zammar’s terror links on “numerous occasions” before 9/11. [US Congress, 7/24/2003 ] However, apparently the US does not share their information on Zammar with German intelligence. Instead, the Germans are given evidence from Turkey that Zammar is running a travel agency as a terror front in Hamburg. In 1998, they got information from Italy confirming he is an Islamic militant (see October 2, 1998). However, his behavior is so suspicious that they have already started monitoring him closely (see 1996). [US Congress, 7/24/2003 ; Stern, 8/13/2003] Ironically, also in 1999, German intelligence gives its information on Zammar to the CIA (see 1999).
The CIA’s DO Counterproliferation Division (CPD) sends a cable to an unnamed government office or official (the identity of which is redacted in the source document) requesting approval to send former ambassador Joseph Wilson to Niger to investigate Italian intelligence reports that Iraq has attempted to purchase uranium from that country (see February 13, 2002). The cable also requests additional information from Italy regarding the matter. [US Congress, 7/7/2004]
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