Jails four republican guards after January protest deaths

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Tirana, February 14 2011 NOA – Albanian authorities have detained four government security officers in connection with the deaths of three people during an anti-government march in the capital, Tirana, last month. The fourth person died in hospital after two weeks in a coma.

Two other officers were arrested earlier this week, suspected of firing at the crowd during the January 21 rally. Some 150 people were wounded.

Witnesses said the protest turned violent when demonstrators began throwing rocks and other things at police. At least one police car was set on fire.

Video footage showed that shots were fired as security forces tried to push back an estimated 20,000 demonstrators.

The protesters were demanding that Prime Minister Sali Berisha call early elections over allegations of corruption and electoral fraud in the 2009 vote.

But Mr. Berisha refused their demand and accused the opposition of trying to stage a "Tunisia-style" coup, referring to street protests that recently overthrew that North African nation's government.

The leader of the Socialist Party, Tirana Mayor Edi Rama, vowed to hold more anti-government demonstrations. He made it clear he does not want to wait until the scheduled elections in 2013 and said the opposition will not tolerate what he called "an intolerable regime" of thieves ruling Europe's poorest nation.