800 police officers mount raid on 'cannabis capital'
MORE than 800 Albanian police officers besieged a lawless village known as the cannabis capital of Europe yesterday, coming under fire from machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.
Reinforcements were sent to the village of Lazarat, about 130 miles south of Tirana, after an attempt to destroy thousands of cannabis plants was met by stiff resistance.
Police, backed by armoured vehicles, tried to enter the village on Monday but were repelled by heavy weapons fire, including anti-tank missiles and grenades. One officer was wounded. Lazarat produces 900 tonnes of cannabis a year, worth around €4.5bn – equivalent to almost half of Albania's gross domestic product.
Police arrested six suspected drug traffickers, but others were still holding out in the centre of the village, which has been a virtual no-go zone to the security forces for years.
The gun battle came days before the European Union's 28-member states decide whether to confirm Albania as a candidate to join the bloc, amid concerns over the country's crime gangs and shaky hold on law and order.