Young guns fan the flames of revolt

Albania: teenagers relish the power of weapons as insurgents consolidat e their gains and reject peace overtures by Tirana

Bajram thinks this is the greatest day of his life. He's got a delivery truck tanked up and roaring, a Rambo poster is pinned behind the driver's seat and several shots of raki are pumping through his veins. Hugging his left leg, barrel poking out of the window, is a Kalashnikov, loaded and ready for some robust exercise.

In the passenger seat, a friend with a bandana is firing into the middle distance. Both have a glazed, crazy look in their eyes. An old Audi careers around the corner and screeches to a halt. "Hey Bajram, look!" shouts the driver, Fred. He pulls out his own Kalashnikov, fires perilously low, and lets out a demonic laugh.

For the teenagers of southern Albania, the rebellion is like a testosterone dream come true. For the past five years they have been weaned on Chuck Norris, Steven Seagal and Jean Claude Van Damme, whose films are shown on Italian television stations and watched avidly in Albania. Now have the chance to behave like macho super-heroes themselves.

The difference is that this is real violence. By far the most casualties have been due to incompetent or reckless handling of weaponry. In Gjirokaster and Saranda, teenagers have been killed and children as young as four caught in the crossfire. A man in Gjirokaster, Matush Gjini, whose 14- year-old daughter was shot in the leg,said: "We've got to lay down these weapons ... We are just shooting each other."

Laying down arms will be the challenge facing the whole region if President Sali Berisha makes good his pledge to form an all-party transitional government and hold elections by June. He has urged the insurgents to give up their arms by the end of the week and although leaders of the rebellion might be willing to consider the option, the teenagers are in no mood to leave a party while they are still having fun.

At checkpoints on the way into Saranda, the rebel stronghold on the coast opposite Corfu, young men are attempting to look cool in army fatigues looted from barracks, pink headbands taken from a women's beachwear shop, and baseball caps. The stimulant of choice is not raki, but finest southern Albanian grass, which lends a mellow air to the spectacle.

A few miles away, near Delvina, the site of incursions by government commandos and bombing raids last week, the atmosphere is tenser and the kids, many drunk, shove guns into the faces of travellers.

Saranda itself is calmer, well organised by the local revolutionary council, led by a retired colonel, Xhevat Kociu, who banned guns from the town centre and established a chain of command. But he admits there are limits to his authority. "Not only can I not force them to give up the weapons, but morally I don't have the right to, since I wasn't the one who gave them the guns in the first place."

It is seems inconceivable that the state will regain full control of its army equipment. At the weekend in Gjirokaster, townsfolk were looting everythingfrom the army base. Masters of smuggling, they are more likely to sell the weapons abroad than give them back, whatever government is in power.

Letters, page 13

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
Lane Del Rey performing on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2014
people... but none of them helped me get a record deal, insists Lana Del Rey
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Arts and Entertainment
British author Howard Jacobson has been long-listed for the Man Booker Prize
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Louis van Gaal watches over Nani
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Systems Analyst (Technical, UML, UI)

£30000 - £40000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Cost Reporting-MI Packs-Edinburgh-Bank-£350/day

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Cost Reporting Manager - MI Packs -...

Senior Private Client Solicitor - Gloucestershire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor - We are makin...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Support Developer

£50000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A unique and rare opport...

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn