8 arrested over Albania ‘cannabis kingdom’ shootout
Police arrested eight people overnight Saturday in connection with a deadly shootout in an Albanian village known as a “cannabis kingdom” for its industrial- scale production of the drug.
On Wednesday more than 400 policemen, supported by army helicopters, surrounded the southern village of Lazarat where an armed group — firing from machine guns and antitank rockets — had entrenched itself.
Those arrested include two brothers suspected of being directly involved in the shooting, in which one police officer was killed and two others seriously wounded, police spokeswoman Enrjeta Camani told AFP.
Early investigations suggest brothers Albian and Alban Aliko, aged 17 and 20 respectively, had spent the last six months planning to attack police in Lazarat, Camani said.
Some 15 other youngsters, all aged from 17 to 21, are believed to have been working on the plan with the Aliko brothers, police allege.
The group was very well-armed and their goal was to take control of the village and make it a safe haven for drug manufacturers and traffickers, the police spokeswoman said.
Camani did not give details of the other six people arrested but said that some 40 other individuals were brought in for questioning.
The operation was ongoing Sunday morning as officers searched the area, including the homes of people suspected of involvement in the shootout, she added.
A year ago Albanian police clashed for five days with armed groups before taking control of Lazarat.
According to an Italian police report, until that operation the village was producing about 900 tonnes of cannabis annually, worth some 4.5 billion euros (US$5 billion) — equivalent to almost a third of Albania’s gross domestic product.
Albanian police officers patrol the scene in Lazarat village, about 200 kilometers (125 miles) south of capital Tirana, Friday, June 26.