Albanian religious leader welcomes Israel ahead of WCup game

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TIRANA, Albania (AP) The religious leader of Albania’s Muslim community has welcomed the Israel soccer team to Albania for a World Cup qualifier later Saturday.

Grand Mufti Skender Brucaj used his Facebook page on Saturday to wish “sportsmen and guests from Israel a calm and peaceful stay in the Albanian land!”

Some 2,000 police have surrounded the stadium, with extensive checks on supporters going to the Group G match.

Albanian police say they have taken extreme steps to secure the qualifier.

The venue was changed for “security reasons” from the northern city of Shkoder, near the border with Montenegro, to Elbasan, much nearer to the capital Tirana.

The decision followed media reports that an alleged terror group of 15 persons, arrested in Albania, Kosovo and Macedonia, planned an attack during the match.