Army Tries To Restore Order in Albania

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TIRANA, Albania: The forgotten Balkan nation of Albania, one of eastern Europe's poorest, remained in the grip of widespread unrest Monday as the army and police tried to control angry mobs in several Albanian cities. In the capital Tirana, army troops patrolled the access roads to the central bank and state television building after a crowd of 35,000 had ransacked buildings, smashed windows and hurled rocks at police on Sunday. Albania's parliament gave President Sali Berisha increased powers to quell the violence. Undeterred, protesters in the town of Peshkopija attacked a police station and set the city hall on fire. "Police lack forces and equipment to fulfill their tasks under these conditions," Interior Minister Halit Shamata told parliament. The unrest erupted when authorities arrested the operators of several pyramid schemes who promised Albanians astronomical returns on their investments. Thousands chipped in, selling homes and livestock in the hope of getting rich without realizing that their money vanished as pay-outs to earlier gullible investors. With the con-men behind bars, people feared their money would be lost for good and took to the streets. The government has accused the nation's former Communists of stirring up the violence. The rioting has already forced Albania's Prime Minster to promise pay-outs for early next month, no small matter for a people with an average monthly income of about $70.