Muslim man held in New York prison claims he was CIA spy

Blerim SkoroAn ethnic Albanian man facing deportation from the United States says he was trained by the Central Intelligence Agency to spy on “the most ruthless, dangerous terrorists in the Balkans and the Middle East”. Blerim Skoro, 45, from the former Yugoslav Republic of Kosovo, was arrested last February in Brooklyn, New York, for illegally using a discounted student MetroCard. He was then found to have entered the US illegally and is currently in prison in New Jersey, facing possible deportation back to Kosovo. But Skoro told The New York Times in an interview published on Wednesday that he cannot be sent back to Kosovo because he operated there as a spy for the CIA.

According to The Times, Skoro came to the US in 1994. Six years later, he was convicted in a New York court of transporting drugs and laundering nearly $700,000 in criminal proceeds. But while in prison, Skoro was recruited as an informant for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and was tasked with monitoring inmates with militant Islamist leanings. In 2007, when Skoro was released from prison and deported back to Kosovo, he allegedly continued working for US intelligence. He told The Times that he was trained by US operatives in a CIA safe house in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia before taking on assignments in the Balkans, the Middle East and even Pakistan. Throughout that time, Skoro says he posed as a militant Islamist who had become radicalized while serving his prison sentence in America. He claims to have supplied the CIA with intelligence relating to al-Qaeda and other Sunni Islamist groups.

However, in 2010, while traveling to a CIA safe house in Macedonia for a meeting, he was shot by assailants who probably knew he was working for a foreign spy agency. That incident prompted the CIA to sever its relationship with him, dismissing him from his agent status and offering him approximately $40,000 in compensation. Soon afterwards, Skoro made his way to Canada, from where he entered the US illegally, in November 2014. Before getting arrested in Brooklyn in February, he says he made contact with US intelligence officials, offering to spy for the US against the Islamic State. But his offer was not accepted. The Times article speculates that US intelligence may have no use for Skoro because his identity has been compromised, or because his reliability has come into question.

Currently Skoro is being held without bond at the Bergin County Jail in northern New Jersey, because federal prosecutors believe he might flee if released. The Times contacted the CIA, the FBI and police sources, but all declined to comment.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 07 July 2016 | Permalink

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ISIS views spread in Balkans as Kosovo police nab 40 militants

Kosovo and its surrounding regionBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
Over 40 people have been arrested in Kosovo on strong suspicion of maintaining close links with the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Authorities in the small Balkan nation said the Monday arrests were part of “a major police operation” aimed at preventing Kosovar citizens from joining the violent Islamist group. Kosovo gained independence from Serbia in 2008, following several revolts and uprisings in the 1990s. The vast majority of its citizens are ethnic Albanians, most of whom practice Islam. However the lifestyle of its largely pro-American population remains markedly secular. Observers have thus been startled by reports that an estimated 100 to 200 Kosovars have so far traveled to Syria and Iraq to join the Islamic State, known previously as the State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS. Last week, an 18-year-old Islamic State volunteer from Kosovo was reported killed in Syria; he was the 16th Kosovar member of the Islamist group to have been killed in the field of battle. There is allegedly footage on YouTube showing Lavdrim Muhaxheri, the commander of the Kosovar Islamic State members decapitating an Iraqi teenager. Aside from the detention of 40 suspects, the Monday crackdown is believed to have netted significant numbers of weapons and ammunition discovered in more than 60 locations around the country. Police said that the dates of birth of the arrestees range from 1962 to 1994. Authorities are looking for more suspects who were “not found at their homes” during the countrywide crackdown, while many Muslim clerics are also being investigated for links to radical Islamist groups. The 40 that are in custody are now being questioned under procedures recently established by the Kosovo Penal Code, designed to protect “constitutional order and security in the Republic” of Kosovo. Reports from the tiny Balkan nation suggest that its parliament is preparing to pass national legislation forbidding citizens form joining foreign armed movements. A prison sentence of up to 15 years is being considered for those who do so. It is worth noting that Albanian is among the primary languages into which the Islamic State’s Arabic-language proclamations are usually translated by the militants —the others being Russian, Turkish, English and French.

News you may have missed #649

María del Pilar Hurtado

María Hurtado

►►US-Russian tensions over stranded Kosovo aid convoy. A stranded aid convoy of more than 20 Russian trucks was stopped Tuesday by US soldiers at a Kosovo border with Serbia, increasing tensions in the volatile region. American forces say they believe the convoy’s cargo consisting of canned food, blankets, tents and power generators appears, is intended for minority Serbs, who reject Kosovo’s statehood, and have been blocking roads in the Serb-run north of the country to prevent Kosovar authorities from taking control.
►►IRA spy in Irish police was ‘open secret’. Former British army agent Kevin Fulton, also known as Peter Keeley, who infiltrated the IRA in the 1980s, has said it was an open secret in the IRA that it had a “friend” among the gardaí (Irish police) in Dundalk. Speaking to the Smithwick Tribunal, he named the “friend” as retired detective sergeant Owen Corrigan. See here for previous intelNews coverage of this issue.
►►Colombia asks Panama to extradite ex-spy chief (again). Panama’s Foreign Ministry says Colombia has asked it to extradite former Colombian intelligence director Maria del Pilar Hurtado (pictured) to face conspiracy, wiretapping and abuse of authority charges. Hurtado headed Colombia’s now-defunct DAS domestic intelligence agency in 2007 and 2008.

News you may have missed #362 (sex & politics edition)

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Who tried to burn down the US embassy in Skopje in 1999?

Dragan Pavlovic-Latas

Pavlovic-Latas

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
On March 25, 1999, approximately 200 people broke off from a much larger crowd of pro-Serbian demonstrators in downtown Skopje, Macedonia, and, in a military-style operation, tore down the security perimeter around the US embassy and occupied its courtyard for several hours. With the US ambassador, Christopher Hill, and most of the embassy staff inside the building, the occupiers set fire to embassy cars and tried to set the building alight. By the time they were dispersed by police, the rioters had managed to destroy all the cars parked in the embassy’s courtyard, as well as a large part of the embassy building’s exterior. The demonstrators were protesting US and NATO airstrikes against Yugoslavia, which had begun on the previous day, sparked by brutal ethnic clashes in the Kosovo region. But the question remains: who, if anyone, organized the attempted burning down of the US embassy? Read more of this post

A terrible week for German spy agencies

BND logo

BND logo

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Germany’s largest intelligence agencies are in for a challenging few days, as two spy scandals are making headlines in the country’s media. The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Germany’s foremost domestic intelligence organization, is firmly in the hot seat after it emerged that a woman it employed as an undercover informer was among seven extremists indicted for helping operate a hardcore neo-Nazi online radio station. The woman, who has been identified only as “Sandra F.”, had been hired by the spy agency to monitor the German People’s Union (DVU), a national socialist political grouping with substantial following in Brandenburg and Saxony. Read more of this post

German authorities arrest two on espionage charges

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
German federal authorities have announced the arrest of two men, one German and one Macedonian, who passed German classified information to the governments of Kosovo and Macedonia. Anton Robert K., 42, and Murat A., 28, were arrested in the German city of Stuttgart last Tuesday. Germany’s Federal Prosecution office alleges that German citizen “Anton Robert K.” regularly supplied “Murat A.” with sensitive German government documents during 2007 and 2008, while he served in Germany’s diplomatic mission in the Kosovar capital Pristina. “Murat A.” then allegedly gave the documents to organized crime syndicates as well as “state actors” in Kosovo and Macedonia. The Macedonian is alleged to have “intelligence ties” with both countries, but no other information about him has yet emerged. Read more of this post