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Albania's political sides trade accusations over protesters' deaths

Albania's leading party and opposition are blaming each other after three people died in violent clashes. Prime Minister Sali Berisha and his political rival Edi Rama have both urged supporters to take to the streets.

Albanians light candles in the streets of the capital following a day of deadly riots that killed three

Albanians want answers over the deaths of three protesters

Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha and his political rival Edi Rama traded blame on Saturday over the deaths of three people in government protests, with both men calling on supporters to take part in new rallies.

Berisha accused the socialist opposition of trying to stage "a coup to seize power by force" after tens of thousands of people joined anti-government protests on Friday in the capital, Tirana. He appealed to supporters to stage a counterdemonstration on Wednesday, claiming that the opposition had resorted to violent tactics that led to the deaths.

A scene of unrest in Tirana

Berisha claims the opposition had attempted a coup by force on Friday

"They are the real authors of this ugly crime,"Berisha told a press conference. "Yesterday's anti-constitutional act bears your name and you will face all the consequences."

The demonstrations, which turned violent, culminated in the deaths of three people who were shot with firearms. It is still not known who fired the shots, but the government maintains that they were carried out with weapons that police and armed forces "do not use."

However, Albanian prosecutors said on Saturday that at least six arrest warrants had been issued for commanders of republican guardsmen for "exceeding their competence."

Edi Rama, the Socialist Party leader and mayor of Tirana, blamed the government and vowed there would be more protests to depose what he labeled an "intolerable regime of thieves."

"We will continue our protests and demonstrations, without violence, peacefully, wisely, with the unstoppable power of the people's resistance," Rama said.

Projectiles thrown, police crack down

Before the deaths, Rama's supporters had staged a demonstration in the center of Tirana in which projectiles were hurled at Berisha's office building.

Socialist Party leader and Mayor of Tirana Edi Rama

Rama is demanding that the government call an early general election

Police responded with teargas, rubber bullets, water cannons and stun grenades - before the deaths took place.

Opposition Socialists have refused to accept the results of a 2009 election which gave Berisha a second four-year term, accusing the government of corruption and electoral fraud and demanding a new poll.

Author: Richard Connor (AFP, Reuters)
Editor: Holly Fox

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