Two reported shot dead as protests erupt in Albania
TIRANA (Reuters) – Two people were reported shot dead as protesters fought police outside Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha's office on Friday during a rally to demand the government resign over corruption allegations.
"We have two dead civilians. The signs show they were shot from close range with a small caliber pistol. They were dead when they came here," Sami Koceku, a surgeon at Tirana's Military Hospital, told Albanian television.
There were large bloodstains on the road and police said several of its officers had been injured.
Supporters of the opposition Socialist Party had earlier rallied outside the prime minister's office and some had pelted the building and police with stones, sticks and umbrellas.
Police responded with tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannon and stun grenades. Smoke billowed from burning cars, some of them police vehicles.
The length of the main boulevard was packed with protesters, and witnesses said the crowd numbered around 20,000. Some chanted "Victory" and "He's gone." Police warned the crowd not to enter the government building but a few ventured inside.
After some three hours of clashes police in riot gear dispersed the crowd and took control of the boulevard. Live television pictures showed police chasing stray lone protesters and beating them with truncheons.
Berisha, who had been due to visit a town in northern Albania on Friday afternoon, had no immediate comment. A few hours after the unrest his staff said he was in his office and would talk to reporters at 1830 GMT.