Albanian Police Burn 23 Tons of Marijuana After Fighting Dealers for Control of a Village

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
June 20 2014 12:16 PM

Albanian Police Burn 23 Tons of Marijuana After Fighting Dealers Wielding Grenades, Anti-Aircraft Gun

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Lazarat.

REUTERS/Arben Celi

Reuters has a piece today about police battling heavily-armed marijuana dealers for control of an Albanian village. These kinds of stories can become exaggerated in credulous Western retellings—we have a condescending tendency to believe any outrageous detail if it comes from the developing world and/or involves "drug gangs"—but the level of detail in Reuters' report suggests that this village really was home to a marijuana paramilitary. (Also the fact that the villagers they interview are all, "yeah, we had a pretty big marijuana thing going on here.") It took the police five days to complete their operation because the criminal faction was armed with machine guns, anti-tank weapons, and more:

Over five days, police destroyed more than 80,000 marijuana plants and saplings and over 23 metric tonnes of cannabis. They seized 11 heavy weapons, over 7,000 bullets, explosives and 10 grenades. Fourteen people were arrested and 130 houses searched.
The breakthrough came on Thursday when an elite police unit, flown over the nearby Mt. Sopot by French-made Puma army helicopter, made a two-hour trek to disperse a group of gunmen operating an anti-aircraft gun that had slowed the police advance.
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Meanwhile, the town's leader wonders what residents, many of whom reportedly worked in the farming operation, will now do for money:

"How will the people make a living?" asked Aliko, the village chief. "You tell me. This is the question everyone in Lazarat is asking himself."

The villagers seem like the big losers: by Reuters' account they can either make a living or have a society ruled by laws, but not both. Fortunately, no casualties were reported.

Ben Mathis-Lilley edits the Slatest. Follow @Slatest on Twitter.

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