A powerful car bomb exploded outside a supermarket in the centre of Tirana, the Albanian capital, yesterday, killing five people and injuring 29 others.
It was the country's worst act of violence since the turbulent transition from Stalinism to democracy. A Fiat Regata, loaded with about 50kg (110lb) of TNT, blew up outside the supermarket just after 9am, when many Albanians were taking their first break of the day. Windows were shattered near by and two coffee shops destroyed.
Among the dead were a retired army officer and a pregnant supermarket worker in her 20s. Many of the injured suffered burns and gashes. "It was terrible, there were people around us being burned alive," said Lamberto Ragni, an Italian who was slightly hurt. All the other victims were Albanian.
Nobody claimed immediate responsibility for the attack, the first occasion urban terrorism had claimed victims in modern Albania. It was the most serious explosion since an aqueduct was blown up in August 1992, apparently by disaffected former members of the Sigurimi secret police.
President Sali Berisha rushed to the scene of yesterday's blast and pinned the blame, again, on the Sigurimi. He did not reveal his sources, but warned: "The initiators and organisers will be found out and punished."Last night two former Sigurimi officials were arrested.
It was not clear if the supermarket, belonging to one of Albania's burgeoning private business empires, was the target or, as police suspect, the bomb went off in the wrong place.
The attack bodes ill for a forthcoming general election campaign, already soured by moves by Mr Berisha's ruling Democratic Party to muzzle the opposition Socialists.