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OSCE shuts N.Albania office after staffer killed
TIRANA, June 16 (Reuters)
The OSCE's driver as well as a technical contractor were killed last Thursday when gunmen opened fire on the security watchdog's car which is emblazoned with the OSCE logo.
The attack was the most serious to date against the OSCE which has frequently seen its personnel and property, especially its four-wheel-drive cars, targeted by bandits.
``In light of the recent tragic incident in which an OSCE staff member and a locally engaged contractor were killed, the OSCE presence in Albania has decided to close until further notice its Field Office in Bajram Curri and withdraw its international staff from the area,'' the OSCE said. ``This latest incident....demonstrates that the situation is no longer tenable,'' it added.
Highway banditry and killings are rampant in Albania where more than half a million weapons are in private hands, but the Tropoje area in the mountainous north is extremely lawless and out of government control.
Heavily armed gangs frequently engage in bloody vendettas and prey on motorists. Several crews of international news organisations covering the Kosovo crisis have been robbed of cars, money and equipment.
The OSCE opened the Bajram Curri field office in March 1998 to monitor the border between Kosovo and Albania as hostilities between Serbs and ethnic Albanians flared up.
As the only permanent international presence in northern Albania, it helped Albania cope with the two massive refugee floods from Kosovo over the past year.
Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.
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