18 June 2014
Last updated at 23:09
Police have laid siege to the village of Lazarat since Monday
Albanian police have seized more than 10 tonnes of marijuana in a major operation against cannabis growers in the southern village of Lazarat.
Police say some 800 officers were needed to bring most of the village under control by Wednesday evening.
One officer and two civilians have been injured in gunfire exchange, they add.
Lazarat produces 900 tonnes of cannabis annually, worth some 4.5 bn euros ($6.1 bn) – equivalent to almost half of Albania’s gross domestic product.
Police have besieged the village, some 230km (140 miles) south of the capital Tirana, since Monday.
They were met with heavily armed men firing rocket-propelled grenades and mortar shells.
Cannabis plants were openly being cultivated in fields and house gardens in the village
Local TV broadcast the police operation live, with residents warned to stay indoors
Albania has become a major transit point for drugs entering Europe from Asia and Latin America
Smoke was seen rising above the village, with some eyewitnesses saying it was caused by locals burning marijuana plants before police closed in.
The operation is still in progress. The alleged gang leader surrendered and 10 others were still holed up inside a house, AFP news agency reports.
Interior Minister Saimir Tahiri told AP news agency that the operation would continue until “every square centimetre in Lazarat is under state control”.
The operation comes as part of the new Socialist government’s campaign to stamp out the marijuana economy in its bid to become part of the European Union.