Police in Tirana fired warning shots Wednesday at thousands of Albanians who besieged the city's Embassy Row, and at least 8,000 others reportedly have fled this turbulent Balkan nation.
The mass exodus and continuing unrest in this land of 3.2 million residents cast doubt on the ability of either the ruling Communists or opposition parties contesting elections this month to control popular discontent.The exodus appears to reflect mistrust of Albanian President Ramiz Alia's promise to improve political and economic conditions in Europe's poorest nation.
Thousands have tramped overland to Greece and Yugoslavia since the Communist leader reversed 46 years of one-party rule in December and allowed opposition parties to form following student demonstrations for democracy.
The exodus to Italy began en masse last week.
About 8,000 Albanians were reported to have left Tuesday for Italy after taking over ships in the Adriatic port of Durres, an official journalist said.
He said Radio Tirana reported the figure of those leaving as 8,000, but stressed the actual number would be known only when they arrived in Italy, about 50 miles across the Adriatic Sea.