الجمعة , مايو 21 2021

Albania battles cannabis growers

Albanian police enter the lawless village of Lazarat on 18 June 2014Police 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.

 Smoke rises as police burn cannabis plants during a raid in the village of Lazarat 17 June 2014. Cannabis plants were openly being cultivated in fields and house gardens in the village

Albanian police comb houses in Lazarat village, 230 kilometres (140 miles) south of capital Tirana, on 17 June 2014Local TV broadcast the police operation live, with residents warned to stay indoors

Albanian police seize marijuana in a storage building in the lawless village of Lazarat, 230 kilometres (140 miles) south of capital Tirana, on 18 June 2014Albania 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.

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