Albanians rally for an end to anarchy

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The Independent Online
Four people, including two children, were hurt yesterday when Albanian police fired above a crowd surging towards the ferry landing site at Durres harbour. Police hit out with truncheons and fired Kalashnikovs in the air as people scattered in panic. Two boys of 12 and 13 were among those hurt.

Yesterday was a national day of mourning for the dozens killed and hundreds injured in the recent violence. A superficial order has been imposed inTirana and the Adriatic port of Durres, but thousands of Albanians are still desperate to leave, along with the foreigners who have been bailing out.

In Durres, about 250 Turks waited patiently outside a government villa to be ferried to two Turkish ships anchored off the coast. Two British helicopters flew overhead, possibly in case they wanted to duplicate the operation. If they do, they may try to organise it better than the first British evacuation, which went wrong when the Italian ship due to rescue the convoy of British cars at dusk was delayed. The terrified Britons were stuck in Durres as looting erupted, while the British embassy lost all the cars it had in Albania to armed mobs.

The ambassador, Andrew Tesoriere, also lost his staff: "Because of the circumstances of the armed crowd in Durres ... the UK staff here didn't have a retreat path," he said yesterday. They were evacuated to Brindisi, leaving Mr Tesoriere trying to track down the remaining Britons almost single-handed.

In Tirana, several hundred people gathered in Skanderbeg Square for a peace rally. One man waving flowers grabbed a cap from a Tirana policeman who smiled weakly and then snatched it back. "Albania is ours!" the crowd chanted. Some of the marchers were ordinary people eager for a solution to the crisis. Others appeared to be supporters of President Sali Berisha. The attempt to raise a chant of "Bashkim Fino", in honour of the new Prime Minister, a Socialist, was drowned out by cries of "Peace".

Mr Fino leads a caretaker government which includes ministers from Mr Berisha's Democratic Party and several opposition parties. But there is confusion about who is actually in charge in Tirana.

The Defence Minister is a Socialist, but there is no longer an army to command, while the Democratic Party has clung on to the Interior Ministry, which controls the police. The chief of the Shik secret service has been fired, while officers from its Communist predecessor, the Sigurimi, have been recalled.

The wife of the British ambassador to Albania spoke last night of her fears for his safety as he remained in Tirana to oversee the evacuation of around 40 remaining Britons. Alma Tesoriere, who arrived at Heathrow airport early on Saturday after being evacuated said "I am very confident in my husband's abilities and am sure that he will be taking every precaution." Letters, page 14

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