Guerrilla leader is killed by unknown gunmen


A leadinG member of the self-styled ethnic Albanian government in the Yugoslav province of Kosovo, Mr Ahmet Krasniqi, was shot dead in Tirana on Monday evening, the Albanian Interior Ministry said yesterday.

"Mr Krasniqi was killed by unidentified gunmen while entering his home in Tirana," the Ministry spokesman, Mr Artan Bizhga, said, adding that police found three 9mm cartridges at the scene.

Mr Krasniqi was the commander of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Kosovo (FARK), a rival of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) which has borne the brunt of fighting with Serbs.

Political assassinations were virtually unknown in Albania until last week, when a senior Democratic Party politician, Mr Azem Hajdari, was shot dead near his party's headquarters in Tirana.

There are many criminal murders in Albania, where an estimated 600,000 weapons are in circulation. Albania has been drawn to the verge of conflict on its northern border with Kosovo.

Separatist guerrillas of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) have bases in northern Albania, from where they re-equip and infiltrate Kosovo.

About 15,000 ethnic Albanians from Kosovo have fled to Albania to escape fighting between the KLA and the Serbian security forces. More than 500 people have been killed and over 250,000 displaced.

In another attack in Tirana overnight, a flask filled with explosives was thrown at the home of Mr Vasil Melo, chairman of the ethnic Greek Union for Human Rights Party (PBDNJ), part of a coalition led by the ruling Socialist Party of Prime Minister Fatos Nano.

Mr Bizhga said the explosion damaged Mr Melo's house but no one was injured. He said police believed the explosion was an "act of street villains."

Mr Melo said: "I cannot consider this an attempt against myself" because the gunpowder could have been used to do a lot more damage.

The explosion followed a grenade attack the previous night on the home of a state prosecutor who has been investigating unrest in Albania in the past two years.

Prosecutors blamed the opposition leader, Mr Sali Berisha, for the attack.