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Sunday, September 13, 1998 Published at 23:51 GMT 00:51 UK

World: Europe

Violent protests at Albanian PM's office

Protesters set fire to cars outside the Interior Ministry

One man is reported to have been killed when anti-government demonstrators clashed with police outside the offices of the Albanian Prime Minister, Fatos Nano.

The BBC's John Devitt reports on the protests
Reports say Skender Kalenja, a leading member of the conservative National Front party, was shot in the chest by a policeman outside the government headquarters in the capital, Tirana, after protestors attacked the building.

Four government guards were wounded.

Around 2,000 demonstrators gathered outside the offices following allegations that government officials were involved in the killing of an opposition deputy.

The BBC's Paul Wood: "Witnesses say they heard vollies of gunfire"
They set fire to cars outside the Interior Ministry, then moved to the nearby building that houses the prime minister's office and also the cabinet meeting rooms.

As some of the protesters, brandishing iron bars and firing pistols and Kalashnikov assault rifles, entered the building, the ground floor erupted in flames.

Government officials said the cabinet was meeting at the time of the attack, but members had fled out the back door to safety.

The protests followed the shooting to death of a prominent opposition politician, Azem Hajdari, and his bodyguard in on Saturday.

A BBC correspondent in Tirana says their bodies have been displayed in public in the Tirana main square where thousands of people were turning up to pay their last respect.

The assassination

Azem Hajdari was gunned down by automatic rifle fire as he came out of the offices of the Democratic Party on Saturday night.

[ image: Opposition leader Sali Berisha paying his last respect to  Azem Hajdari]
Opposition leader Sali Berisha paying his last respect to Azem Hajdari
He was accompanied by two bodyguards, one of whom was also killed, while the other remains in a serious condition.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

The government denounced the killing and posted a reward of between $50,000 and $100,000 for information leading to the arrest of the perpetrators.

The allegations

The opposition claims that the killing was ordered by the prime minister, Fatos Nano, from the governing Socialist party - the reformed heirs of the communist dictators who ruled Albania for nearly half a century.

"The Democratic Party of Albania has all proof that this is a direct criminal act of the government," former Albanian president Sali Berisha said.

Mr Berisha described the assassination as a "very, very wrong decision."

"[Mr Nano] has committed an historical mistake by organising such a murder on the doorstep of our party," he said, adding that if Mr Nano did not resign within 24 hours, the opposition would use "all means" to force him out.

The Democrats said they had identified the killer as a policeman, but the Interior Ministry could not confirm this.

The motive

Mr Berisha said that prime minister Nano, who ousted him at last year's election, had sworn to make Hajdari pay for toppling a previous Nano government in 1991.

However, Mr Berisha said it was time for mourning rather than revenge, and appealed for calm.

Hajdari was the first senior politician to be assassinated since Albania abandoned Stalinism eight years ago.

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