Worshippers wounded in Albania mosque knife attack; suspect arrested

Albanian police officers secure the area near Dine Hoxha mosque after a knife attack in Tirana, Albania, April 19, 2021.
Albanian police officers secure the area near Dine Hoxha mosque after a knife attack in Tirana, Albania, April 19, 2021.PHOTO: REUTERS

TIRANA (AFP) - A knife-wielding man attacked worshippers at a mosque in Albania's capital Tirana on Monday (April 19), police said, wounding five people.

It is believed to be the first such incident inside a place of worship in Albania, a country where more than half the people identify as Muslim.

The victims had been taken to hospital but none was thought to have received life-threatening injuries, the police added.

A 34-year-old suspect was arrested but the motive behind the attack, which took place at around 1230 GMT (8.30pm Singapore time), was unclear.

"I hope that it is not a terrorist act but the act of an unstable person," the mosque's imam Ahmet Kalaja told local media.

Local reports said the attacker stabbed and injured a waiter at a nearby pizza restaurant before rushing into the mosque, but the police have not yet confirmed that detail.

Widespread religious practice only returned to Albania in the 1990s, after being banned for more than four decades by the country's former communist rulers.

Albania is generally regarded as a bastion of religious tolerance, where communities share each other's feast days and interfaith marriages are common.