TIRANA, Albania — Clashes broke out in Tirana Wednesday during a protest by hundreds of Albanians over the fatal police shooting of a 25-year-old man who had breached a coronavirus-linked curfew.
Protesters, who defied a government ban on public gatherings of more than 10 people due to the pandemic, threw stones and flares at police, the interior ministry, the Tirana city hall and the main government buildings.
They also tried to force their way into the ministry and the government complex that includes Prime Minister Edi Rama's office, and police fired tear gas to disperse them.
Police spokesman Gentian Mullai told The Associated Press that nine officers were injured. Parked police cars were damaged.
The Health Ministry said two protesters were also injured. It added that one of the hurt police officers is in serious conditions and will require surgery.
A police statement called on protest organizers, who used social media to mobilize demonstrators, to stop calls for violence. It added that an officer has been detained and is being investigated over his possible role in the killing.
"The unacceptable episode of the killing of a citizen by a police officer … cannot be exploited as a pretext to exercise blind violence, to seriously injure police offices and damage public and private property," the statement said.
Klodian Rasha was shot dead during curfew hours early Tuesday after not responding to police calls to stop and running away, according to police.
Shouting "Rama go!" and "I am Klodian," protesters — most of whom did not wear masks — set on fire a Christmas tree outside the main government building and then knocked it down.
They also damaged the New Year decorations at the main Skanderbeg Square. Later protesters moved to the Tirana police station and set fire to trash bins.
Rasha's friends asked for the officers to be held accountable.
Local media initially quoted a woman who claimed to be Rasha's sister, but then retracted saying that Rasha had only two brothers.
Prime Minister Rama is in the United States where on Wednesday he met with Pfizer officials, trying to secure vaccine deliveries for Albania.
Albanian authorities have imposed several lockdown measures including prohibiting gatherings, mandatory mask wearing and an overnight curfew to try to prevent a surge of new cases.
In April next year Albania holds parliamentary election.