Albanian protesters vent anger at PM's office, torch bunker

TIRANA (Reuters) - Opposition protesters in Albania threw eggs and cobblestones ripped from the street at the office of Prime Minister Edi Rama on Tuesday, using the 25th anniversary of an historic student protest against communism to denounce his government.

The opposition Democratic Party was swept from power by Rama’s Socialists in 2013 and trounced in mayoral elections in June. The party, however, accuses his government of rampant corruption that it says is driving Albanians to seek asylum in western Europe.

“We shall not get tired, will not be trampled,” Democratic Party head Lulzim Basha told the crowd in the capital Tirana.

“This is the start of a season of protest that will stop only when its popular goals are achieved. Civil disobedience has started,” he said. “A technical government is the solution.”

Before and during his speech, the crowd threw eggs, cobblestones and bags filled with green and blue dye at the gate of the prime minister’s office. Some set fire to a bunker Rama built as a tourist attraction.

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The bunker, a reference to the hundreds of thousands of bunkers that dotted Albania under the paranoid, Stalinist rule of Enver Hoxha, was built a mile north of Rama’s office as the entrance to a labyrinth of tunnels dug out under Hoxha as an escape route for the state elite in times of war.

Tuesday’s protesters set a fire inside the bunker and then tried to smash it, in scenes that recalled the way Albanians used to plunder the communist bunkers for their iron.

As smoke billowed from a fire fed with wooden planks and the jacket of a former Democrat MP, youths waved the Democrat flag as others broke the windows of the Transport Ministry.

Rama, writing on Facebook, decried the scenes of “desperate ugliness” and “miserable vandalism”.

“Disgust for the policies of a Democratic Party in continuous disarray, without vision, leadership...” he wrote.

Editing by Matt Robinson and Janet Lawrence