At approximately 0638 EST, reports began to emerge that Albanian National Police executed a Special Court against Corruption and Organized Crime (SPAK) ordered raid on the primary Iranian Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK) MEK camp in Durres, Albania. By 0651 EST, local Albanian media reported that at least one person had died and 36 had been wounded as protestors sought to repel the Albanian police from the camp. However, Albanian officials claimed by 1200 EST, that two civilians died in “un-related situations” to the raid, such as a sixty-seven year old man going into cardiac arrest. The actual numbers of those dead and injured remain unclear at this time.
MEK is an Iranian militant organization that advocates the overthrow of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and installation of its own government. They accepted a combination of Marxism and Islamism as the base of their belief.
After the overthrow of the Shah, the MEK competed for power with the Revolutionaries and Khomeini that went on to establish the Islamic Republic of Iran, eventually being forced to flee the country in 1981 for France after coordinating several demonstrations and attacks again the Iranian government.
In 1986, Paris expelled MEK due to an increasingly violent series of attacks against Iranian embassies abroad. MEK relocated to Iraq’s Camp Ashraf near the border with Iran. MEK participated in several battles on the Iraqi side of the Iran-Iraq War, which significantly culled its popularity among Iranian moderates.
MEK operated in Iraq until the United States invasion in 2003 when their forces surrendered to the U.S. military. MEK would continue to operate with limited tolerance from the new Iraqi and US supported government until 2016 when their relocation to Albania was negotiated. Since then, MEK has maintained their camp of more than 5,000 personnel and their families in Albania, providing intelligence services to anti-Iranian forces.
This raid of the camp is novel and significant in that it follows a pattern that both France and Iraq pursued which ended in the eventual eviction of the fighters. It is not currently clear why the investigation and raid occurred, other than Albanian stated goals of keeping law and order. Some have speculated increased Iranian diplomatic pressure on Albania.