(en) A chronicle of the events in Albania

a-infos-request@tao.ca
Tue, 18 Mar 1997 23:26:07 GMT


A AA AAAA The A-Infos News Service AA AA AA AA INFOSINFOSINFOS http://www.tao.ca/ainfos/ AAAA AAAA AAAAA AAAAA

Dear comrades,

below you will find a (surely uncomplete) chronic of the events in Albania. The comrades of the Hamburg I-AFD Group I (Initiative for an Anarchist Federation in Germany) have been sending almost daily updates on the situation to the anarchy-list which, from today on, I will be forwarding to this list also. Many thanks to the I-AFD comrades for all their efforts.

@narchist greetings, Robert (for the A-Infos Group in germany)

------ *I-AFD Group Hamburg I* - Albania Report from March the 5., 1997 (i-afd_2@anarch.free.de)

Seems that our news cover the topic quite sufficiently, and please excuse me if there's repetitions to what you got:

For quite some time, there have been violent clashes between Albanians and police/army, with the population at first only armed with stones etc. In Vlore/ Vlora, a port in Southern Albania, protests were very intense: Vlore was headquarters of that (or those) _companies_ that after their collapse will not pay back anything to investors (most companies apparently will pay back at least a little), so people there got pretty furious. In Vlore, people raided the bureaus of these companies and afterwards raided a police station and set fire to it. Fire brigades did not appear on the scene, as they were afraid to be seen.

Police in Vlore was also scarcely to be seen. Some material broadcasted on German TV showed single police vans dashing along the road while people were throwing stones and sticks in great numbers. They also showed people advancing towards a line of police who apparently had orders to stop the marches, but were attacked heavily and had to retreat pretty quickly and rather disorderly. For several days, reports from Vlore said that police - in fact: the state - had withdrawn from the city.

Over the weekend, arms depots and barracks had been raided and reports on German TV showed a good part of the people in the streets were armed. So the government resigned on Monday, BUT: President Berisha the same day made the parliament re-elect him into office. He was voted in with more than 120 votes of about 140 members of parliament, as manipulations during the last election were so severe that Berisha's party has an overwhelming majority of MPs.

After re-election, Berisha told the population to lay down arms until noon, otherwise he would call in the army. Apparently, no arms were put down, but TV-correspondents no longer had the opportunity to send out material from yesterday evening on. A number of journalists were evacuated from Vlore by the Italian army yesterday.

Today, reports shown only had _official_ Albanian material presenting soldiers and no street scenes. The report also said that by now the population has occupied 3 warships!!! The Albanian army is now closing off the Southern part of the country with tanks. As the sources of information now seem to be mainly government/police, no further info was given about whether army units take sides against the government etc. Also, German TV news announced that contacts to journalists in Albania were not possible any longer: whereas yesterday, they could give their comments via telephone, it was reported that police had threatened correspondents not to send anything outside the country and apparently also phone calls were not possible today.

I just heard news on the radio and they said that even more troops are being sent in, but in one town in the Southern part of Albania (something like Saranda) had decided to turn their city into an autonomous region. They got rid of the Mayor who was a Berisha-follower and promptly elected an autonomous community commission to administrate the city which is situated near the border to Greece. They have also occupied a local naval basis. The radio news also announced that despite correspondents being censored, they would be able again to send out material from today afternoon. It was reported further that the population in the Southern part of Albania continues to raid arms deposits and barracks since several barracks have been given up resp. deserted by the soldiers.

Then on late TV news they had material from Saranda, showing that the population held a general meeting to discuss what to do and whether to lay down arms which they did not. And the population has organized food supplies to feed everybody; German news showed bread distributed by bakeries which all went about with a lot of discipline, i.e. it's pretty well self-organized there. People in Saranda tried to talk to president on the phone to negotiate with them so that Berisha will not send in the army, but they couldn't get through to him. It was now reported that the population had as much as six battle ships and obviously knew what to do with its canons as they fired test shots. The population was said to have 11,000 guns and also artillery and ready to use them when the army comes in. They interviewed some people who said that they didn't want to fight but were prepared to when the army came in. Now it was said that soldiers in the South have been sent home by the government for fear they would take sides with the population as they mostly come from the region. Another TV programme announced that the population in Vlore, too, was openly revolting.

Reports some weeks earlier said that the situation in Albania was severe: many Albanians have no proper housing and not enough money to buy food, let alone heating material etc. Most had to make a choice between starving and freezing to death during the cold period anyway. Many people who trusted these _investment companies_, as they were recommended by the government (they had bribed the government and partly financed their election campaign), have lost their houses and property as a result. A great part of the population only existed by making a living (?) in the _shadow economy_ even before the breakdown of these companies.

It does make a queer sense, though, that a good part of the Albanian population was made to believe in these investment companies, as apparently there was quite a lot of activity by Scientologists who offered training programmes for people and especially to students to promote Hubbard's weird theories on economy. Papers reported some time ago that German Scientologists were very active in this campaign to _clear_ Albania. Reports did not say whether this was supported by the Albanian government, but it is to be suspected, as training programmes were mostly held in rooms at Albanian university/ies. I'd like to know whether these investment companies or part of them were run by Scientologists.

------ *I-AFD Group Hamburg I* - Albania Report from March the 8., 1997 (i-afd_2@anarch.free.de)

After request to the Albanian population to lay down arms until Sunday 6 a.m., the population in several towns and villages held meetings to discuss what they were going to do, and apparently a majority was against disarmament.

There were talks yesterday between president Berisha and the opposition during which the ceasefire for the army was extended for another 24 hours to Sunday. Everybody to put down arms is assured to go free, but interviews on TV showed that many people do not believe in this amnesty offered. Berisha furthermore still rejects a coalition with the opposition parties and still does not want to retire. Earlier reports had said clearly that the Albanian opposition consisted mainly of ex-Communists and former Berisha-followers. Due to massive manipulation during the latest elections, the opposition is not represented in the Albanian parliament and also had no possibilities to take an influence on the population. So it does no come as a surprise that the offer of amnesty for those who lay down arms voluntarily is viewed upon with a good deal of suspicion. It also seems to be evident that neither parliament nor opposition can represent the population in any way.

On Saturday, news on TV announced that a steadily increasing number of soldiers were deserting from the army, taking along their weapons to the rebel side. In Tepelena, arms depots in barracks now empty (the soldiers deserting to join the population or just going home) have been made available to the population. Apparently, arms and ammunition are also taken to other towns and villages from there now.

In a report from Gjirokaster, the correspondent said that the population was openly on revolt now. On another channel, the correspondent observed that the Albanian army had tried to fly in soldiers into local barracks, and that, as a result, local population had stormed the barracks. Further reports said that again Italian airforce had evacuated several persons from Vlora, some of Italian, but others of Albanian nationality. Reports claimed that people had stormed a ferry in the port of Sarande which usually goes between Sarande and a Greek port.

Austrian ex-chancellor Vranitzky now was accepted into Albania on his mission on behalf of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, whereas Berisha meant to see him only next week. It was said that OSCE made it a point that Vranitzky was allowed in already during the ceasefire. He has had 2 talks to Berisha today. Berisha is now reported to agree to early elections, but this is it. The correspondent continued that Berisha still does not want to admit that the Albanian army might no longer be in a position to do anything much about the situation. Vranitzky is said to have pointed out that European aid for Albania to improve the economy would depend on peace in the country.

According to another correspondent, Berisha hat told the Greek Foreign Secretary that a "soon and violent solution" was to be expected.

------ *I-AFD Group Hamburg I* - Albania Report from March the 10., 1997 - part I (i-afd_2@anarch.free.de)

The deadline to put down arms ran out yesterday, but apparently no army marched in. Reports announced yesterday that about 7 towns were "in the hands of the rebels", today there's four more reported on TV. Radio news said that several cities have come into it, and they emphasized that none of these cities were captured by "rebels". All they had to do apparently is walk up to these cities and the resp. populations decided to join.

TV news reported that the town of Berat joined the rebellion which was made a point of interest insofar as there are "armament production facilities". The Albanian army was said to continue to be on the retreat.

President Berisha now seems to be on the retreat, too: TV news said that he agreed to have a "government of national unity", elections in June, and he also reaffirmed the amnesty for those who put down their guns.

Other TV reports said that border posts to Greece were abandoned, as police, customs, and army fled from the South - this was BBC World who also said that 5 persons killed in clashes with the army have been buried today and added that in Vlora there were casualties due to uncontrolled gunfire. They also said that here children were carrying guns and that a lot of these casualties were caused by them. Then they managed to show one small boy carrying a gun through the fields some place, but the didn't show any hordes of kids walking through Vlore armed up to their teeth. Most reports have this discrepancy between the pictures shown and the comment given. [...]

------ *I-AFD Group Hamburg I* - Albania Report from March the 10., 1997 - part II (i-afd_2@anarch.free.de)

So: it is later than you think, and the late news just came on:

A correspondent reported that apparently the town of Vlora is willing to lay down arms according to Italian sources, but there was no confirmation obtainable on this. The other cities seem to have decided to continue with their resistance. Pictures showed a mass meeting in some town where people talked about which way to take and it was said that they agreed on preparing to run the town for themselves. People regarded the offers made by now were not enough and it was repeated that one of their demands is Berisha to retire.

The correspondent continued that it came as a shock to the Albanian government that all their generous concessions didn't make the population shout with joy and so the government at the moment doesn't quite know what to do (or their arse from their elbows..). As she pointed out the government had reckoned to gain some credit with the population for their generous offers and was in panic now.

The correspondent was asked whether people were preparing a march on Tirana, but she answered there was no indication as every town was rather preparing to defend themselves.

And sorry, there was a mistake in my previous mail: kids were reported to run about with guns in Gjirokaster, not in Vlora. [...]

------ *I-AFD Group Hamburg I* - Albania Report from March the 11., 1997 (i-afd_2@anarch.free.de)

Not much coverage for the better part of the day. As always, it was all in the late news.

An airforce base is said to be taken by the population so that they got 40 MiG fighters now.

Berisha and the opposition have agreed on a "government of national unity" to be put into office with a Socialist (sorry, didn't catch the name) as a Prime Minister.

Another report said that the population of a town in the North (they didn't say how far in the North), the name being Rampsh (sp??), raided an arms depot. It was added that town after town was joining the uprising so that by now one quarter of the country was involved.

Berisha's defense line was reported to be one hour south of Tirana; tanks of this defense line were shown on the main road or at least one of the main roads leading to the South. The correspondent apparently talked to the soldiers there who told them that they were there but had no ammo; they allowed the camera into tanks to prove that the ammo stacks were empty. The correspondent added that Berisha was in panic at the prospect of a march on Tirana happening.

Another correspondent from Gjirokaster said that today delegates from several towns met there and discussed organizational and political issues which he commented upon as leadership was emerging by now. They have come up with the demand for Berisha to resign which he still refuses. The correspondent, however, did not mention any other decisions discussed or agreed upon by the meeting.

This correspondent also mentioned that the population in the South are organizing among themselves in more and more towns.

A report in a political magazine on German TV said that in many towns where the population had taken over, they are busy getting organized in a council system (what I mean is an organ of self-organization, sorry if my dictionary is way off here: if so help me out).

Yesterday's reports that Vlore was willing to lay down arms have not been confirmed today. A left German paper (Junge Welt/Young World) said today that the comitee in Vlore has asked police officers to come back into office and help to restore some order >>under control of the comitee<< (which does not necessarily mean that they want to accept the deadline but can also be interpreted in other ways).

LATEST:

Pictures from Tirana !! were just shown with a demo against Berisha - they showed violent clashes between population and police in the streets of Tirana, people beating up policemen.

Oh yes, and there's constant repetition of comments to be heard like "Albania on the verge of anarchy" when they mean chaos.

------ *I-AFD Group Hamburg I* - Albania Report from March 12., 1997 (i-afd_2@anarch.free.de)

I heard from a friend that a report on TV yesterday claimed that the Albanian army tried to advance into a town two nights ago, sending in two tanks. There are reported several losses among the population who fought back the army, shot the soldiers in the tanks and threw molotov cocktails into the tanks. ***

Today's radio news confirmed yesterday's reports that towns in the north are joining the rebellion, and also that Tirana was no longer quiet: people have raided the military academy in Tirana, carrying out guns, while members of secret service Shik simply watched. In the outskirts of Tirana, people have raided arms depots and taken the guns found there. As Shik did not interfere, it is assumed that these raids were made by Berisha-followers.

Albanian state controlled TV showed family scenes all day and added appeals to lay down arms.

Some reports said, Berisha approved of a government of national reconciliation, others commented that the parties involved were still haggling over which party will have which ministry. New prime mininster Fino, a Socialist, asked for European help as Albania was on the brink of civil war. Correspondents remarked that Fino comes from the south of Albania; he is the former mayor of the town of Gjirokaster and therefore, it was said, Berisha hopes he will be able to calm down the south. Later reports announced that one party, the Democratic Alliance which was said to have a good reputation with the population, already left the government of national reconciliation in protest against some appointed secretary/ies(?) of state.

In the south, checkpoints on roads were said to have all been put up by the "rebels". The defense line of the Albanian army is about 55 kms south of the capital Tirana. On the other hand, several cities in the south (only Saranda was named here) are said to run out of food supplies. No lorries cross the border from Greece as drivers were afraid to enter Albania.

Several correspondents reported gunfire in Tirana (some calling it "sporadic" whereas others spoke of fights); one said it was in the south western quarters of Tirana. Gunfire was said to have started at about 8 p.m. and to continue although the curfew started at 10 p.m., but due to the curfew, there was no further info by correspondents.

Correspondents concentrated on the situation in Tirana, mainly the raids happening, and did not say much about the situation in the south.

------ *A-Infos Group in germany* - Report about army ambush March the 11., 1997 (i-afd_1@anarch.free.de)

This is what was said on the news today: Meanwhile 12 cities are said to have made themselves independant, all in the south of Albania. One city called S... was mentioned. Apparantly, this town is surrounded by military forces and in the night an attempt was made to attack the city. The military had advanced with two Daimler Benz tanks and shot at the town, it was claimed that they killed several people (one dead child surrounded by mourning citizens was shown). The armed populance defended itself, shooting the soldiers in the tanks and throwing molotov cocktails into them.

The reporter also said that the citizens were fanatic, that they kissed their weapons or swore on their weapons to fight til death and he said that they were prepared to do anything. However this stands in strange contrats to further news in the same report showing that the citizens in the towns was busy building a "council sort of democracy" (this is what the speaker said), there were mass meetings on town squares making decisions.

------ *I-AFD Group Hamburg I* - Albania Report from March 13., 1997 (i-afd_2@anarch.free.de)

Todays news reported that all Albania now is on revolt. The northern town of Shkoder was said to be in the hands of rebels, during fights 5 persons have been killed and 40 injured in Shkoder. People in the northern region are getting armed, too. One person in a north Albanian town was interviewed on TV; he said: "The state has no place here anymore." Several hundred people in Durres were reported to have entered a vessel in the port and went to Italy. A ferry with another several hundred refugees also left Durres today and meanwhile arrived in Italy (among these persons, it was said, are Berisha's children), as well as some naval vessels that approached the Italian coast showing white flags. By tonight, there is no electricity in Durres which is Albania's main port. The streets were said to be deserted, no army, police or secret service to be seen. All ships have left the port to prevent people from entering them. As Albnia's main port doesn't work, correspondents said a food shortage was to be expected.

The airport in Tirana has been closed for 48 hours starting the evening before, and there was gunfire in that area, too, but apparently they flew out foreign residents from Tirana airport this afternoon. Rumours speak of a frontline being just before Tirana to the south. Gunfire in Tirana continued during the day and was all over the city, one correspondent spoke of hearing mortars being fired. Correspondents said that it was not clear, however, who was fighting whom; people suspect the shooting was done by secret service Shik. More barracks in Tirana were raided without any interference from the army. The commander of one of the barracks, according to correspondents, said that they left the barracks with open doors on orders which he said came "from the top". 600 prisoners were said to have escaped from Tirana's biggest prison, the central prison. Among them is Albania's last communist president Rames Alia. The population in Tirana "organizes" food to be prepared for the next days. One report said that factories were being plundered, and pictures showed an industrial bakery with people carrying off sacks with flour.

US-battleships are in the Adriatic Sea which was said to be seen as a indication that the US are willing to evacuate Berisha. US embassy personnel has been evacuated today with US-army helicopters.

Several reports said that Berisha's attempt to form a government including opposition parties failed. Other reports said an all-parties-government was put into office and sworn in by Berisha today. Some correspondents remarked that the all-parties government had no significance any longer. Another said that by now about three quarters of Albania demanded Berisha to resign. The Organization for Security and Co-operation wants to send in Vranitzky again to persuade Berisha to resign, but due to the airport being shut down, he could not get into the country.

Either the new all-parties-government or Berisha (reports mentioned both possibilities) asked the European Union for a military intervention. One report said that the EU's position was not unanimous, as Italy and Greece seem to favour a military intervention. Also, the government asked UN for an urgent discussion.

The Italian airforce again went into Albania and evacuated 400 foreign residents, not only Italians. Correspondents said that the Italian government was afraid that a high number of Albanian refugees to the southern part of Italy will be dynamite to the social situation in this region. The problem for Italian authorities seems to be that, given the present conditions in Albania, they cannot return Albanian refugees upon arrival which has been done so far.

The Albanian army, reports said, practically dissolved. They showed some young soldiers on TV who said that their officers told them to go home. How the government will do its work remains to be seen as reports said that most employees in the ministries went home.

Pictures taken in Vlore again presented a huge open-air mass meeting in the city centre, with people discussing in a pretty disciplined way - just that they did not translate what was being said. They showed a bakery in Vlore where bread was baked and afterwards distributed: I noticed that no money was taken in return for the loafs and it was all very calm and disciplined, no pushing or shouting or the like. Then there was a scene in the market where some people were selling dandelion (I think that's what it was), and some women pushing the dandelion in front of the camera, obviously complaining, but there was no translation either. The only gunfire to be heard in Vlore was when they showed pictures of the port, with one vessel at the quays which was crowded with people. No comment was given to that, so it's not clear whether these were refugees trying to get out or a military vessel captured by the population (pictures were too far off to see).

Late-late news reported that Albania was closed off with the main port having stopped working, the airport being closed, and apparently neighbouring countries have closed the borders. On the Greek border, about 100 persons get arrested every night by Greek authorities, but these were said to be smugglers; the correspondent added that there were almost no refugees.

It was repeated that the population did not trust Berisha, who happened to be the medical doctor of Enver Hodscha (and had learnt from Hodscha how to stay in power, as was added by one correspondent), due to his increasing autocratic style of government, the manipulations in presidential elections, and the political support for the investment companies. One report said that the loss occured by the breakdown of these companies amounted to 2 billion US-dollars.

------ *I-AFD Group Hamburg I* - Albania Report from March 14., 1997 (i-afd_2@anarch.free.de)

Today's news mainly dealt with the evacuation operations carried out. This afternoon, German helicopters evacuated 120 persons from Tirana, 21 of them German residents. During the operation, Albanians opened fire and one Albanian is reported injured, but reports made it a point that no-one was killed. Later news said that fire had been opened by members of Albanian secret service Shik.

US forces continued evacuation, but apparently the operations were suspended after a helicopter had been shot at with a bazooka.

Italian ferries evacuated more people. One vessel carrying 900 refugees this afternoon arrived in Italy from the Albanian port Durres. Twelve Albanian naval vessels by now fled to Italy with soldiers asking for political asylum which they are unlikely to be granted, as was remarked.

Reports from Shkoder talked about official buildings having been burnt down by the population.

Reports claimed that there were 100 persons killed in Tirana by this evening. During the night, tanks drove through Tirana which disappeared in the morning. Pictures from Tirana showed armoured cars (saying police on them) patrol the city. One policeman interviewed said they wanted to restore order for president Berisha. Correspondets commented upon the armoured cars that this was an attempt by the government to re-establish order.

Tonight, the population in Tirana was asked to stay home starting 7.00 p.m., but it was not mentioned by whom this appeal was made.

Reports that Berisha had resigned and fled to Italy were denied by Berisha. Several comments favoured Berisha to resign as he was seen to be an obstacle to a peaceful solution. Yesterday's reports that his children fled to Italy have been confirmed today; apparently they were accompanied by bodyguards who forced their way onto the vessel at gunpoint.

Fourty naval vessels of different nationality are said to be at the Albanian coast but for evacuation purpose only.

New Prime Minister Fino again asked OSCE for a military intervention in talks to OSCE's special ambassador Vranitzky, and, in a press conference later today confiremd that only Europen military help could restor order in Albania. Vranitzky apparently is willing to advice OSCE to send in troops; he does not favour NATO or WEU, however, but would, as he said, prefer Netherlands and Denmark to take quick action. Later news reported that OSCE is thinking about taking steps to prepare a military intervention. German politicians, however, opposed a German participation.

A NATO spokesman interviewed on TV said that he did not see a NATO intervention right now but on the other hand pointed out that NATO did not want the unrest to spill over the borders. He avoided a clear answer to the question whether NATO will patrol Albanian borders. He also said that a military intervention would mean to implement some kind of political framework which was "conspicuously lacking in Albania". There seem to be differences between NATO and OSCE, as NATO wants a political structure in Albania before taking any steps for an intervention, OSCE was said to see it the other way round.

Late-late news brought a report from the south. The correspondent talked about "struggles" in Delvina to put up some order, but pictures showed discussions. The correspondent mentioned that one of the topics of discussion was to punish people found plundering. In Tepelena, it was said, the rebellion was led by a former Communist politician but there was no further evidence given. It was pointed out that the population got the individual towns organized but again the lack of a regional or national organization was deplored by several correspondents.

Several reports pointed out that food was needed in Albania and some suggested that European help should send in food supplies. One report said that many shops in Tirana stayed closed today due to yesterday's plunderings.

Late-late news report that Prime Minister Fino announced that head of secret service Shik had resigned and added that the Ministery of the Interior now was directly responsible for Shik.

------ *I-AFD Group Hamburg I* - Albania Report from March 15., 1997 (i-afd_2@anarch.free.de)

News late during last night said that the people shooting at German troops evacuating foreign resident were not from Secret Service Shik but Albanians desperate to get out (which might not be a contradiction, after all).

Today's news also concentrated on the situation in Tirana, but mainly dealt with European reaction towards an intervention in Albania.

In Tirana, the government had asked police officers to come back and take up work again. Apparently this is the case as the government bribed the police into it with a pay rise of 300% ! These policemen are handed guns and are told to go around Tirana and take away guns from civilian people. This was commented upon as an successful attempt to restore order in our media.

They showed pictures from Tirana where police in vans went around the city centre shooting at people in the streets. Late-late news showed more pictures of Tirana this night with armoured cars from police forces, police vans and police cars driving through Tirana like these were racing cars. It was pointed out that this presents the biggest danger in Tirana tonight, and after watching these pictures I must agree.

New Prime Minister Bashkim Fino appealed to employees of (state owned) radio and TV station to stay at resp return to work as a patriotic contribution to restore order. He also appealed to the populace not to seek refuge abroad.

Media said that the rebels still are in control of most of the country. Another appeal to Berisha seems to have been made to resign which he duly refused again (I did not pick up who asked him this time, and it was only said once in the news). Aha: late-late news said that due to the chaotic and dangerous situation in Tirana with the police forces called back in running wild now, rumours spread through Tirana, one of them being Berisha's resignation. These rumours were so intense (as must have been the reaction to this resignation) that Berisha felt it apt to make an appearance on TV to deny his having resigned.

US marines continue evacuations in Tirana meanwhile.

European foreign ministers today met in the Netherlands to discuss the situation in Albania and whether WEU (Western European Union) would favour a military intervention. As it turned out, they could not agree as many countries seem to oppose a military intervention. Greece strongly favours this step, as well as Denmark and Austria, as was reported on TV. What the foreign ministers said, though, is that they would like to send in humanitarian help, e.g. food supplies. German foreign minister Kinkel in an interview deplored that this was not possible since Albania was closed to the outer world as the port of Durres and Tirana airport did not work. He added that also shooting had to stop before humanitarian help was sent in.

By tonight, EU foreign ministers had decided to send a mission to report back how Europe could help Albania - they called it fact-finding mission. They cautiously favour to send in police forces but, as far as I understood, would like a UN vote on that before they take any action. Later news added that some European countries seem to favour sending in a troop of about 1,000 into Durres and Tirana to secure port and airport for humanitarian help. What they do not seem to think of is the military airport in the south where, as 40 MiGs were captured by the populace there, it must be possible for huge aircraft to land and take off.

OSCE favours and suggests military intervention, as this was wanted by Albania. Their special ambassador Vranitzky pointed this out in his report. There were discrepancies in this respect, though: German TV news reported that Vranitzky had met with Prime Minister Fino and rebel leaders, whereas BBC World said he met Fino and opposition leaders (which seems to make more sense).

An Albanian writer of some international reknown, Ismail Kadare, was interviewed by French TV and deplored the present situation, too. He mentioned having telephoned home (he comes from Gjirokaster) and his friends/family told him that the situation was awful with a mob ruling the streets, uncontrolled and incessant gunfire and people sitting at home shivering with fright. Later on this same TV station, they showed pictures from Gjirokaster: scenes in the streets where you saw pretty few guns, heard no gunfire, people at work, others, esp. wymyn and children sitting in front of their houses, doing their washing or watching their laundry getting dry, children playing etc - all pretty normal daily activities. I saw nobody shivering with fright, many people seemed to be rather bored (especially those sitting in their gardens with the laundry) or busy (constructing houses, carrying home supplies etc).

Reports from Durres said that a Greek vessel was entered by Albanians trying to get out. They showed the port where some more small vessels crowded with refugees were still at the quays. More refugees were said to have made it to the Italian coast in fisherboats which took 24 hours to cross the Adriatic Sea. They interviewed some of the refugees who claimed that a dangerous mob was ruling the streets, shooting at everybody showing their noses; one man claimed that children of 2 and 3 years were shot mercilessly by rebels.

A German paper had speculated before at the fairly small number of refugees coming out of Albania and said these might be people fleeing as they had pretty close links to the old government or were part of it. I do see a reason that this notion may not be too far off what's happening: all refugees they showed on TV were clothed very well, I saw furcoats, coats with fur linings, many new leather jackets, the clothes were pretty new and people were well fed, some women freshly coiffed, and many carried huge suitcases. There is a contrast to those people they call rebels: poorly clothed, poorly housed and many of them look like they did not get proper and enough food for some time. It is also remarkable that there is only news about refugees from Durres and Tirana and no other town. Durres is in the vicinity of Tirana.

Todays's news claimed that 1,200 prisoners had escaped from Albanian prisons, among them Rames Alia, Albania's last communist leader after Hodscha's/Hoxha's death and a socialist leader, too.

Other reports picked up the good old topic of ethnic differences breaking out and said that the North of Albania was inhabited by an Albanian "tribe" called Gheg, whereas the southern population were Toskans, claiming that there are differences and even animosities of a long standing between both. They pointed out that Hoxha was a Tosk from Gjirokaster, and so was his successor Alia, whereas Berisha (Hoxha's medical doctor) was a Gheg from the north. They also duly mentioned that rebellion against the (Toskan) communist regime started in the North, as the rebellion against the (Gheg) regime these days started in the south, with both parts of the country being reluctant to take up the resp. rebellions.

It was confirmed by today's reports that all towns which joined the rebellion have built a council to organize and run the city. One paper mentioned that the present Albanian government was presented with enormous difficulties as they had no one to talk to properly: they would have to talk to each town individually and could not be sure that the inhabitants of another town would approve and join any agreement achieved at.

Shedding a tear about these diffculties, I'll call it a day,

------ *I-AFD Group Hamburg I* - Albania Report from March 16., 1997 (i-afd_2@anarch.free.de)

EU's foreign ministers are against a military intervention. Today, the decided upon sending a commission to assist the Albanian government. The so-called fact-finding delegation will leave for Albania tomorrow and prepare the work of the commission. They agreed, though, that this commission will have to be protected by troops but did not mention anything about how many they were going to send. EU has offered further financial help which will be organized with the International Monetary Fund, as far as I heard.

Berisha was said to approve of this move and thinks it will strengthen his position. New prime minister Fino also approved. Correspondents who made interviews in the streets in Tirana said, however, that the population does not welcome this aid and thinks European Union is interfering in Albanian internal affairs.

In Tirana, the citizens' forces (that's what they call the policemen called back on bribes now) are still going around town collecting guns. Nothing was said anymore about them driving through Tirana last night, so it is not clear whether they did any damage. The curfew in Tirana will start from 7 p.m. now.

The inhabitants of Tirana have to buy food on the black market mostly with a rapidly increasing US$ and an equally deteriorating local currency. A report on German TV presented an Albanian couple and gave info on their living conditions. They were old-age pensioners, receiving about 30 US$ a month. They live in a 1-room-appartment and cannot pay the 180 US$ rent anymore, even to pay for electricity amounts to 15 US$ per month. It is easy enough to imagine what life they can make on the rest; the correspondent said beans were their staple diet.

The report mentioned that state owned radio and TV stations gave almost no info on the current situation except for appeals to stay calm. Prime Minister Fino has met with journalists and asked them to take up reports which are not one-sided; he called that their patriotic duty.

Berisha proclaimed an amnesty for 150 prisoners today - all of whom have already escaped from prison. Among them was the Socialist leader who was reported to have broken out of Tirana's central prison.

In Durres several thousand people tried to storm a vessel in the harbour. Albanian police opened fire to prevent them from leaving the country, and reports say there were several persons killed and many injured, but no figures were given.

Evacuations seem to continue: the Turkish army evacuated 250 persons of Turkish nationality; US marines were said to have evacuated an unspecified number of persons of US, Turkish, and Italian nationality.

During the last 48 hours, reports claim, between 3-4,000 Albanians have fled to Italy. Refugees reported that there was no bread in Tirana. During last night, at least one vessel which was said to have carried about 800 refugees arrived, and reports said that among the refugees were many unaccompanied children. Italian authorities accept the refugees, but there are problems e.g. in the port of Brindisi where all facilities are already overcrowded, including schools and barracks. At first they did not want to close the port but tonight they seem to have closed Brindisi port according to one correspondent. A part of the refugees in Brindisi apparently was kept in police custody and there were violent clashes between these refugees and Italian police. Although this cannot be characterized as a wave of refugees, Italian authorities have announced that they will send back everybody who will not be granted a stay permit. Oh yes, it was also mentioned that a substantial part of the refugees came without passports. When the communist system in Albania was overthrown, more than 40,000 Albanians fled abroad. The difference in the numbers of refugees may be significant enough.

Further reports from Tirana said that the city was returning to something like normal life. There were several reports who mentioned a demo in Tirana of about 4,000 people who appealed to the rebels to lay down arms. One correspondent interviewed some of the people taking part and said that when he asked them apart from the crowd, they all said that they wanted Berisha to resign and felt his resignation necessary.

One report from Vlore said that regular police patrols the city but inhabitants were still prepared to continue until Berisha resigns.

And just now I watched a report by Greek TV which sounded quite different (but unfortunately, I missed the beginning):

The Greek correspondent said that humanitarian help, mainly food and medicine, was taken into southern Albania from Greece (I did not pick up who organized that). According to this correspondent, these goods were taken over by local councils and he mentioned that the councils were co-operating very well and at once started to distribute goods in a reasonable way. He added that they found a working administration, i.e. the councils, in the southern towns and organized communities easy to work with. He emphasized that councils were distributing everything so well that nobody had to go hungry in this area (not even before Greek aid arrived), and that councils would prevent hoarding of food supplies. The correspondent asked people for donations to enable further transports. He added that the populace in southern Albania was very poor indeed compared to conditions in Greece (Greece is one of the poorest countries in EU, so when they say that, Albanians are indeed dirt poor).

So while EU decided to support a president and a government who desperately try to keep Tirana and Durres in their hands, this last report sounds better than most news items on Albania broadcasted today.

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