bne IntelliNews – Murder and arson in Albania lounge chair war
Albanian Interior Minister Bledi Cuci has pledged to reform the police force after two violent incidents linked to the use of public beaches.
Beachfront hotels see the rental of sun loungers to tourists as an important source of additional income, which is urgently needed after the poor summer season 2020.
Four people were killed and two others injured when a scuffle broke out between rival hoteliers in Velipoja, near the northern town of Skhoder, in the early hours of June 27, according to a police report.
The brawl involved members of the Gocaj and Ferracaku families, owners of rival beach hotels, and erupted after a dispute over the beach areas they had leased from the government, local media reported, citing the police chief. by Shkoder, Niko Brahimaj.
Brothers Edmond and Xhovani Gocaj were killed, along with Kujtim Ferracaku and Myzerim Zeneli, 20, who had started working that day.
A police statement said two people currently hospitalized in Tirana are suspected of having committed the killings, while several others are wanted by police. Two pistols were seized – one at the scene of the murders and the other found during a search of the Gocaj family hotel.
A little over 24 hours later, 60 sun loungers were set on fire on a beach in Dhermi, in southern Albania. Again, police said the incident was caused by a disagreement over the use of the beach, with the blaze likely started by people who had not been granted permits, local media reported. . The chairs are believed to belong to a 55-year-old businessman who had recently received a permit to use the beach.
The tourist season is starting in Albania, where restrictions related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) were lifted after the number of new cases decreased. As international tourists – currently mainly neighbors of Albania such as Kosovo and North Macedonia – are starting to arrive in greater numbers for beach vacations, competition intensifies for the use of prime spots on the Adriatic coast.
Following the shooting in Velipoja and a fatal road accident, which also left four dead, Interior Minister Bledi Cuci said the government was preparing for a new phase of police reform in ‘State.
“During this week a profound change will begin with the headlines of the state police structures at the county level, which will gradually expand to the capillary level in every police station in the territory of the Republic of Albania.” , Cuci wrote in a statement. Facebook post.
However, he denied that police failures were responsible for the deaths, instead referring to the “scandalous” management of Albanian beaches in the past. He added that transparent rules for the use of beaches have now been established and that the only role of the police is to enforce them.
The opposition Democratic Party accused Rama’s government of “washing its hands” of “surrendering order and security in the country”, and blamed the ruling Socialist Party for the bloodshed. “The model they have built over the years is that of the criminalization of institutions and politics to seize and retain power at all costs,” the statement said.
Meanwhile, the mayor of Shkoder, Voltana Ademi, criticized the tourism ministry and the National Coastal Agency, saying that “the loss of four lives could and would have been avoided” if the two institutions “had acted. in accordance with the legal terms and designations of seaside resorts “.
“The very serious midnight event in Velipoja should be a strong alarm for state structures… The armed conflict in the middle of Velipoja, a tourist area and in high season, could and should have been avoided, if the police and others law enforcement agencies had been present, ”Ademi wrote in a Facebook post.
“Today is a day of pain and anxiety, not only for the families involved in the tragic event, but for all Albanians inside [the country] and abroad, ”she added.
Tourism is an important part of the Albanian economy and has been hit hard by the corona crisis. The lack of international tourists in 2020 contributed to the country’s drop in GDP last year, and Tirana is basing its hopes of recovery this year on a better tourist season.