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Athens, Tirana Clash Over Ethnic Greek Killed by Albanian Police

Konstantinos Katsifas had made nationalist claims on social media in days before he died in a shootout near the Greek border.

6 November 2018

Albanian authorities agreed yesterday to hand over to Greece the body of an ethnic Greek shot dead by Albanian police on 28 October.

 

Albanian authorities say Konstantinos Katsifas, 35, was killed after he began shooting at police during a ceremony at a cemetery for Greek soldiers killed during World War II, Ekathimerini reports. The affair has driven a wedge into the fragile relations between Athens and Tirana.

 

Konstantinos Katsifas. Image via his Facebook page.

 

Hundreds of people, including supporters of the far-right Golden Dawn group, marched on the Albanian embassy in Athens on the night of the shooting, The Times reported.

 

Albanian authorities and witnesses said Katsifas opened fire after police tried to take down a Greek flag he erected in Bularat, a town near the Greek border in southern Albania. He then reportedly fled up a hillside and continued to fire at police. 

 

Tirana and Athens have clashed over the status of their respective minorities in the other’s country, but have also made progress on other bilateral issues such as demarcating a disputed sea border, analyst Ebi Spahiu writes in Balkan Insight.

 

When the Greek Foreign Ministry said it was “unacceptable that the [police] operation resulted in the loss of a human life,” Prime Minister Edi Rama responded that Katsifas was a “lunatic” and an extremist, The Times says.

 

Katsifas held both Albanian and Greek citizenship, Ireland’s RTE reported. He was born in Bularat but received military training in Greece, allegedly in the special forces, and was allegedly a member of paramilitary groups aligned with the extremist Golden Dawn, Spahiu says. In the month leading up to his death he posted calls on social media to “protect Northern Epirus,” the region now largely in Albania which Greek nationalists consider an intrinsic part of Greece.

 

 

  • A bilateral agreement concluded in December 2017 led to the exhumations of bodies of Greek soldiers who died in Albania fighting Italian forces in 1940-1941. Thousands of Greeks were killed during the fighting.

 

  • Rama has clashed with Athens over the question of reparations for the Chams, ethnic Albanians expelled from Greece after World War II. Greece has refused to address their claims saying the Chams were Nazi collaborators.

 

  • Albanians comprise the largest group of permanent foreign residents in Greece, numbering 480,000 according to the 2011 census.

Compiled by Ky Krauthamer

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