Gunmen kill police officer, wound two others in Lazarat

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times June 24, 2015 13:06

Story Highlights

  • Deadly violence returns to notorious marijuana-growing rebel village pacified by police a year ago.

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The fallen officer, Ibrahim Basha, 31, was a veteran of the Albanian armed forces. He had served with the NATO mission in Afghanistan.

The fallen officer, Ibrahim Basha, 31, was a veteran of the Albanian armed forces. He had served with the NATO mission in Afghanistan. (Photo: Facebook)

[Updated] Deadly violence returns to notorious marijuana-growing rebel village pacified by police a year ago.

GJIROKASTER, June 24 – A member of Albania’s RENEA elite police forces has been killed and two others have been wounded in Lazarat, marking a return to deadly violence in the notorious marijuana-growing rebel village pacified by police a year ago.

The two wounded officers were flown by helicopter from the southern tip of Albania, where the village is located, to Tirana to receive treatment.

Police said the shooting happened as RENEA forces were trying to arrest several people suspected of having shot toward other police officers in the area overnight.

The fallen officer, Ibrahim Basha, 31, was shot in the head, and died on the way to the regional hospital, police said.

Basha was a veteran of the Albanian armed forces. He had served with the NATO mission in Afghanistan.

- How the events unfolded – 

Police stationed in the village were shot at Tuesday evening and asked for backup. No one was hurt in this earlier incident.

RENEA special forces came as backup around 9 a.m. and stopped a car transporting weapons, seizing two rifles and one automatic rifle and arresting the driver. They were shot at this time from a nearby house, police said in a statement.

Police reinforcements quickly arrived to help and repelled the attack,

Local media reported continued shooting as of the afternoon and police had pinned down an armed group at a corner of the village.

- PM: ‘We are in mourning’ -

Prime Minister Edi Rama, along with his interior and health ministers, visited the injured police officers in a hospital in Tirana, where they had been airlifted by helicopter. Both were listed in non-life threatening condition.

“We are in mourning … and I believe every Albanian who values the honesty, courage and service of the state police is in mourning too,” Rama told journalists.

More police were heading to the area, authorities said.

Wednesday’s incident is the worst in Lazarat so far after the government intervened to stop the massive cultivation of marijuana in the area, which had gone on unchecked for years.

 Over the past year, police has had a strong presence in the village, and there had been no similar incidents.

Lazarat, 200 kilometers south of the capital, Tirana, came to prominence after a five-day police siege in which special police forces came under intense fire from automatic weapons and rocket launchers from local homes.

The raid destroyed 102 tons of marijuana and 530,000 marijuana plants with an estimated market value at the time of some 6 billion euros, which is more than half of the country’s annual gross domestic product.

Print edition update:

Police crackdown returns to Lazarat after officer’s killing

In-depth related coverage from our archives:

Police storm Lazarat, ending years of lawlessness

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times June 24, 2015 13:06