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Albanians Say Italy Purposely Sank Ship

Mon., March 31, 1997

Senior Albanian officials accused the Italian navy on Sunday of deliberately causing the deaths of dozens of Albanian refugees Friday when one of its vessels rammed a boat Albanians were using to flee their homeland.

The charges appear to diminish the chances that an Italian-led security contingent can help stabilize the chaotic political situation in Albania. Italy was preparing Sunday to lead the delivery of aid, hoping to prevent the flight of more refugees.

The Albanian craft was a naval boat apparently hijacked by gangsters in the Albanian port of Vlore and used to ferry the refugees to Italy for a price. It was rammed by an Italian warship enforcing a blockade of Italy.

Roughly 13,000 Albanians have reached Italy in recent weeks to escape turmoil in their country.

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