16 March 2008

Albania's Leftover Weapons Problem

Albania's ample supplies of leftover weapons and ammo have helped fuel the violence in Kosovo. And they're also fueling explosions within its own borders.
The blast flattened the village of Gerdec and caused widespread destruction over a square mile (kilometer and a half), leaving a huge crater.

It highlighted Albania's woes in trying to destroy some 100,000 tons of explosives, remnants of its communist past. Authorities say most of the ammunition was Russian and Chinese artillery shells made in the 1960s.

Albania, which is hoping to join the NATO military alliance, has seen similar accidents in the past. In one such case three years ago, careless handling of ammunition killed a military officer.

"This was bound to happen," a Western military official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter. "There are depots in much worse condition around the country."

More than 100 other depots storing excess ammunition dot Albania, many of them in heavily populated areas.

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