8 ar­rested over Al­ba­nia ‘cannabis king­dom’ shootout

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

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.

AP

Al­ba­nian po­lice of­fi­cers pa­trol the scene in Lazarat vil­lage, about 200 kilo­me­ters (125 miles) south of cap­i­tal Ti­rana, Fri­day, June 26.

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