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Protesters Trap, Strip Riot Police Two Dead, 81 Hurt As Outrage Grows Over Pyramid Schemes

Anti-government protesters attacked riot police Monday, trapping and beating some policemen and stripping them of their uniforms, guns and shields, which the demonstrators set ablaze in a bonfire.

Police in this southern port city fired into the air and fought with the rock-throwing demonstrators in the worst rioting in a month of unrest sparked by pyramid schemes-gone-bust. Two people were killed and 81 injured, state television said.

Anger over the collapse of the high-risk investment schemes has turned into anti-government sentiment. Many believe that President Sali Berisha’s ruling Democratic Party either directly benefited from the shady ventures or should have acted sooner to control them.

Prime Minister Alexander Meksi went on national television Monday to urge Albanians not to join the unrest “that aims at pushing Albania into economic collapse.”

Monday morning, a crowd of about 7,000 people attacked 100 riot police and managed to isolate about 20 officers who fled into a building, where they were stripped of uniforms, guns, helmets and shields.

Then the crowd surged toward a police station, throwing stones and carrying flaming sticks.

The government has blamed leftists for the rioting, claiming they want a return to communist rule.

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