Opposition supporters clash with police in Albania

Opposition supporters wave Albanian Flags as they take part in an anti-government rally outside the prime minister's office in capital Tirana, Albania, on Saturday, Feb.16, 2019. (AP)
Updated 16 February 2019
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Opposition supporters clash with police in Albania

  • Protesters throwing flares and other objects broke through police ranks as they tried to enter the office of Socialist Prime Minister Edi Rama

TIRANA, ALBANIA: Thousands of Albanian opposition supporters clashed with police Saturday at an anti-government rally protesting what they claim is a corrupt and inefficient Cabinet. The protesters demanded that the government resign and an early election be held.
Protesters throwing flares and other objects broke through police ranks as they tried to enter the office of Socialist Prime Minister Edi Rama. They destroyed the main door of the government building in Tirana, the capital, and broke an artwork on the side of the building but could not get inside.
Police used tear gas to disperse the protesters. The Health Ministry said 15 people were injured, including seven policemen.
One poster read "This is the end of the thieves," while another showed a picture of Rama's face made to resemble that of embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Protesters shouted "Rama go!" and blew vuvuzelas.
The rally was organized by the center-right Democratic Party. In an interview with The Associated Press before the rally, Democrats leader Lulzim Basha said his supporters want the government to resign, a transitional Cabinet to be put into place and an early election held.
"(We need) to restore democracy through a parliament that is elected by the will of people and not the money or the threats of criminals," he said.
After five hours, Basha ended the rally pledging that the "popular uprising will continue until the overturn of this system." He called for another protest on Thursday.
This year Albania, a NATO member since 2009, hopes to get the European Union's approval to launch full membership negotiations. Fighting corruption and organized crime are some of the EU's main priorities for Albania, which has seen corruption across the political spectrum.
U.S., EU and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe denounced the violence Saturday on the government building and called on political parties "to take all necessary steps to ensure that the situation becomes peaceful and constructive."
Interior Minister Sander Lleshaj urged political leaders to distance themselves from the violence. President Ilir Meta also called for restraint, saying that "citizens should be free to protest, and all the institutions should be respected."
Rama on Saturday was meeting with citizens in the southwestern port of Vlora in an apparent campaign stop ahead of Albania's municipal election in June.
On his Twitter page, Rama apologized to German artist Carsten Holler, who created mushroom sculpture on the building that was damaged.


Afghan officials: 10 wounded in Kabul minibus bombing

Updated 23 min 38 sec ago
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Afghan officials: 10 wounded in Kabul minibus bombing

  • An Afghan official says all the wounded are ministry workers
  • Gunmen killed a religious scholar in Kabul yesterday

KABUL: Afghan officials say 10 people were wounded when a sticky bomb attached to a minibus carrying government workers detonated in the capital of Kabul.
Police spokesman Ferdus Faramarz says one of the wounded is in critical condition.
Arab Haidari, from the religious affairs ministry, says all the wounded are ministry’s employees who were on their way to work when the explosion took place on Monday morning.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack but both the Taliban and Daesh militants regularly stage attacks in Kabul.
The bombing comes a day after gunmen shot and killed a prominent religious scholar, Mawlavi Shabir Ahmad Kamawi, in Kabul. Last week, a mosque bombing killed another religious scholar during the Friday prayers sermon, also in Kabul.