N E W S – November 1998

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North Albanian Town Tense after Sporadic Gunfire

SHKODRA – Nov. 11, 1998 (Reuters)
Gunmen fired into the air in the northern Albanian town of Shkoder on Wednesday and demanded the immediate release of a man who was arrested on Tuesday, officials said. The unrest followed a standoff between police and a group of some 30 armed men in Shkoder on Tuesday after the arrest of three men whose release the gunmen demanded. Two of the men were later released. Government officials said the gunfire was a minor incident and police were in control.
“Shkoder was calm overnight and police forces took control of the town,” Information Minister Musa Ulqini told Reuters. “This morning there was some sporadic shooting from the same group but everything is under control.” An interior ministry spokesman said special police forces from Tirana were sent to Shkoder late on Tuesday and armoured police cars were patrolling the streets.
A Reuters reporter in Shkoder said the town was subdued but tense. Schools and shops were open but the streets were quiet. Masked policemen checked cars entering town and at checkpoints within the town. The ministry spokesman said the arrested man, Marian Gryka, was a former bodyguard of senior opposition Democratic Party member Azem Hajdari, whose murder in Tirana in September sparked an uprising against the Socialist-led government. He said Gryka had been arrested on a charge of theft and was being held in a Tirana prison.
A group of local political activists, representing the gunmen, met local officials and repeated their demand for Gryka’s immediate release. The activists also asked for the dismissal of all Shkoder officials nominated “from Tirana’s illegitimate power.”
Ulqini said political motives lay behind the unrest. The Democrats have called on Albanians to boycott a referendum on a new constitution to be held on November 22, dismissing the draft as “anti-Albanian, anti-democratic and anti-nationalistic.”
The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), a pan-European security watchdog which will monitor the referendum, said its office in Shkoder had been attacked during the unrest on Tuesday.

OSCE’s officce was looted in Shkodra

TIRANA – Nov. 11, 1998 (AP)
A crowd fired shots in the air in an Albanian city Tuesday and looted a building during a protest of several arrests, the state news agency ATA reported.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said its office in Shkodra, 50 miles north of Tirana, had been looted of computers and other equipment. No one was hurt, the OSCE said. By late Tuesday, some armed men had gained entry into the main local government building, state television said.
The situation grew calmer later, and the protesters cleared the streets and vacated the government building. The unrest began after three men were arrested after reportedly walking toward President Rexhep Mejdani a week earlier carrying weapons. A police source originally said the men were charged with trying to assassinate Mejdani. But the interior ministry later said the men had been arrested on suspicion of theft. Two were later released, but a third remained in custody late Tuesday. Protesters said they would take to the streets again if the third man wasn’t released.
Shkodra is a stronghold of former President Sali Berisha, who was voted out of office after months of turmoil last year. He now leads the opposition party in Europe’s poorest country. In Tirana late Tuesday, an explosion in front of a cafe owned by a Kosova Albanian damaged a nearby car and shattered windows. There were no injuries in the explosion, which was unrelated to the events in Shkodra.

Albanian City Returns to Normal after Unrest

TIRANA – Nov. 11, 1998 (Xinhua)
Albania’s northern city of Shkoder returned to normal on Wednesday after a one-day unrest triggered off by the arrest of a wanted fugitive.
According to the Albanian Telegraphic Agency, Shkoder police Tuesday arrested wanted criminal Marjan Gryka and two other accomplices.
Dozens of gunmen reacted to the arrests by blocking the city road to provincial government, shooting into the air and setting fire to the office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in the city.
Meanwhile, the city’s anti-communists association said in a televised statement that the arrests were politically motivated and asked for the release of the three fugitives. To prevent things from turning worse, the government sent special forces to the city. As a result, police regained the control of the city in the evening.
Later in the day, provincial leaders explained to some organization representatives that the suspects were arrested not out of political reasons but for the serious crimes they had committed.

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Arben Çokaj - teacher in Physics & Informatics - independent journalist & political analyst - Books author

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