Albanian wounded with knife 5 at Tirana mosque
An Albanian armed with a knife attacked and injured five people on Monday in a mosque in the capital, police said, as investigators tried to determine the motive for the attack.
Rudolf Nikolli, 34, entered the Dine Hoxha Mosque in downtown Tirana around 2:30 p.m., according to a police statement. Police said they reacted immediately after the attack began and took him into custody. The private Top Channel TV station, however, showed civilians blocking Nikolli before the police arrived.
A police investigation was opened into this case.
The five injured, all men between the ages of 22 and 35, were taken to hospital and police said their conditions were not life threatening.
Nikolli’s father Niko told Balkanweb online media that his son has been depressed since last year after he was not allowed to leave for Italy and was also infected with coronavirus. The father of the alleged perpetrator is Catholic and his mother is Muslim, and the father said he told his son to go to the mosque or to a church, whatever he wanted.
His father said his son was converted to Islam by an imam in the northern town of Burrel, where he lived. But the father said his son was often prevented from entering mosques by worshipers because they told him he was a Christian.
Ahmed Kalaja, the mosque’s imam, said the man attacked worshipers and staff at a time when the mosque was filled with believers during the fasting month of Ramadan.
“We hope it was not a terrorist attack,” Kalaja said.
Albania’s 2.8 million people are predominantly Muslim with smaller Catholic and Orthodox Christian communities getting along well.
Senior official of the Catholic Church in Albania, Angelo Massafra deplored Nikolli’s act and expressed his support for the wounded.
“We pray to God for all of you, who are living the month of Ramadan, for the injured, for your community and all Albanians so that peace and goodness reign in our hearts and that such events do not happen again,” said Massafra in a statement to the leader of the Muslim community in Albania, Bujar Spahiu.
Religion in Albania was banned for 23 years under the former communist regime of Stalinist dictator Enver Hoxha, who declared Albania the world’s first atheist state, from 1967 until its fall in 1990. Religious authorities of all faiths were killed, tortured, imprisoned or sent to labor camps.
Pope Francis made his first visit to a Muslim-dominated country in 2014 to Albania, calling its interfaith harmony an “inspiring example” to the world.