Well-known restaurateur charged with Macedonia murder

Posted: Monday, December 18, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A well-known Anchorage restaurateur was arrested on an international warrant charging him with murder in Macedonia.

Investigators from the Alaska Fugitive Task Force took Nedzat ''Nick'' Shabani into custody Friday at Phillips International Inn in Anchorage.

Shabani has two months to convince an American judge that the charges against him lack evidence or are politically inspired, said assistant U.S. attorney Mark Rosenbaum.

Shabani is being held without bail in the Cook Inlet jail awaiting a hearing Wednesday before a federal magistrate.

Shabani, who owns the Phillips restaurant and another Anchorage restaurant, Balto's, is accused of secretly traveling to Macedonia in September to kill Blerim ''Benny'' Mehmedi, 26, owner of a Spenard pizzeria, who was visiting Macedonia at the time with his father.

Macedonian police say a man who drove the getaway car in the Sept. 27 shooting has named Shabani as the killer. Mehmedi was shot in the head. His father was killed in the attack.

Police say the motive was revenge because Mehmedi allegedly had an affair with Shabani's wife.

Shabani has said he's innocent. He said he was in Anchorage, not Macedonia, on the day of the shooting.

The Mehmedi and Shabani families are both members of the Albanian immigrant community. Shabani, 42, came to Anchorage 12 years ago.

Mehmedi, father and son, came here from Illinois in 1991 and worked for Shabani at Phillips. They left his employ in August 1999 when, according to Mehmedi, his illicit relationship with Shabani's wife was discovered. Shabani said there was no illicit relationship but Mehmedi made inappropriate advances toward his wife.

Police were called several times to settle dispute between the two families. Both sides say the trouble had mostly faded by the time Mehmedi, now the owner of Capone's Pizza, decided to accompany his father on a visit to his father's homeland.

Mehmedi said he traveled with his father to Macedonia in September to meet with a woman the family wanted him to marry. He said he liked the woman, a medical student, and marriage was the topic when father, son and a cousin met with the prospective bride and her mother at a cafe in Kicevo, a city of about 60,000 people.

Mehmedi said as the group left the cafe he noticed a jogger trotting toward them and stepped aside to let the runner through. But as the jogger neared, he pulled a gun and started shooting. Mehmedi took a bullet in the head. His father fell, mortally wounded. The cousin grappled with the shooter, got shot in the groin and wrested the gun away, Mehmedi said. The jogger jumped into a waiting car, which sped away.

Mehmedi said he did not recognize Shabani as the shooter. The man wore sunglasses and a hood. But he believes his cousin got a close enough look to identify him.

Macedonian police believe Shabani flew to Albania through Vienna on Sept. 23, then drove across the Macedonian border on the 27th with a nephew, shot the Mehmedis and fled back across the border and returned to Alaska the next day.

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