Tensions that have been building for months between the government and opposition Socialists came to a head after a top minister was forced to resign this week amid an alleged corruption scandal.
More than 20,000 people hit the streets Friday to demand that Prime Minister Sali Berisha call early elections after the country’s deputy prime minister, Ilir Meta, resigned. Opposition supporters battled riot police outside Berisha’s office in Tirana, and health officials said three people were shot dead and 30 civilians and 24 policemen and National Guard were injured.
Clashes broke out Friday when several hundred protesters broke away from the main group and started attacking a riot police cordon. Chanting “Get out, Get out!” some protesters overturned and torched cars, smashed paving stones and hurled them at riot police and reached the steps of the government building.
Police used tear gas and water cannons to beat them back. As the night fell, hundreds of riot policemen and national guard officers swept through the center of the capital, beating protesters with batons and detaining dozens of youths. There was no immediate word on arrests.