One dead, 39 injured in clashes in Albania

January 21st, 2011 - 11:52 pm ICT by BNO News  

TIRANA, ALBANIA (BNO NEWS) — At least one people on Friday died and 39 other were injured as protesters and police forces clashed during an opposition demonstration, the Shekulli newspaper reported.

The rally began at 2:00 p.m. local time in Tirana, the Albanian capital. The demonstration was organized by the Socialist Party and the government deployed 3,500 police officers to safeguard the streets.

Authorities also installed cameras at key points in Tirana’s streets, columns and traffic lights. Police said that the officers were deployed to secure the population and appealed to non-use of violence.

However, two hours before the rally, police forces conducted raids in buses and vans as they were stopped in roadblocks that were previously set up. This was seen as a provocation towards the demonstrators although police said they were only checking documentation.

Despite this, hundreds of people gathered in the streets and headed towards government buildings as they were calling on the conservative government to resign. The Socialist Party accused the government of corruption, abuse of power and fraud during the last elections.

Approximately 20,000 people joined the protests that stemmed after the resignation of Deputy Prime Minister Ilir Meta after he was accused of fraud. Violence erupted about 30 minutes after the beginning of the rally.

Police forces used water cannons and stun grenades to contain demonstrators who responded by throwing stones and burning police vehicles. At about 4:00 p.m. local time, the first shots were heard.

It was not known if the ammunition used was rubber bullets or real ones but two people were seen in the ground shortly after.

So far, one person was killed and around 39 injured, including 17 police officers. Among the 22 civilians injured, there were three reported in critical condition.

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