Tear gas hurled in Albania at Bosnian Serb singer’s concert

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TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Albanian police have arrested two people for allegedly hurling tear gas canisters during a concert by a Bosnian Serb musician whom many in the country accuse of not condemning the 1998-1999 war in Kosovo.

A statement said Redon Leka, 21, was arrested after hurling a tear gas canister while songwriter Goran Bregovic was performing Sunday night at the Korca Beer Fest, 165 kilometers (100 miles) southeast of the capital, Tirana.

Another man was arrested after trying to stop police from taking Leka away.

Bregovic didn’t stop singing but the tear gas caused panic among some fans.

Bregovic’s presence had sparked a national debate, with some condemning him for not speaking out against Serb atrocities on ethnic Albanians in neighboring Kosovo. Others have said an artist shouldn’t get involved in politics.

Prime Minister Edi Rama denounced criticism against Bregovic as a “medieval hysteria” against “one of the most extraordinary musicians of the Balkans.” He said the singer has not said anything against Albanians and was never a supporter of the wartime Serbian regime.

“It was a fascist hysteria, shameful for the Albanians’ European citizenry, for our history and tradition,” Rama wrote in his Facebook page.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, a decade after the 1998-1999 war with Serb forces. The war ended after a 78-day NATO air campaign drove Serb troops out and a peacekeeping force moved in.

Most Western nations have recognized Kosovo, but Serbia and its allies Russia and China do not. Tensions over Kosovo remain a source of volatility in the Balkans.

Bregovic visited Albania in 2006 and held a concert, also receiving a symbolic key to Tirana by Rama, who was mayor at the time. His presence then didn’t spark a backlash.

Kosovo’s Self-Determination Movement branch in Albania denied claims in the local media it had organized the tear gas incident. Days earlier, its supporters had protested Bregovic’s participation in the festival in Korca.

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