Albanians clash with police over nation's first toll road

TIRANA, Albania — Protesters in Albania burned down toll boxes and scuffled with police Saturday over the country's first toll road, authorities said.

A peaceful protest involving a few hundred people opposed to the toll road near the Kalimash tunnel in northern Albania turned violent, with participants throwing stones, then breaking down the collection boxes with bars and setting them on fire.

Interior Minister Fatmir Xhafaj said 13 police officers were injured in the clashes. Media outlets reported that some protesters were also injured.

The protesters included some people with a "criminal past," Xhafaj said. He pledged a strong response and called on political parties to distance themselves from violence that set a "dangerous precedent."

Prime Minister Edi Rama also warned that law breakers would "get the deserved response."

The tolls range from 2.5 euros ($3.08) for a motorbike, 5 euros ($6.17) for a car to up to 22.5 euros ($27.79) for a truck.

Lulzim Basha, leader of the main opposition Democratic Party, called on the government to exempt northern residents from the toll and to lower the amounts being charged. He described the protest as a reaction to the "government's injustice and violence."

Long convoys of cars blocked the road for at least three hours.

Many tourists from neighboring Kosovo, which temporarily blocked traffic toward the highway on Saturday, travel to Albania to enjoy the seaside they lack at home. The road 110-kilometer (70-mile) highway runs from Milot, near the Adriatic coast, to the Morine border crossing.

An international consortium is expected to complete a segment link, maintain the road and collect tolls over a 30-year concession.

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