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Vehicle carrying suspected migrants crashes into a river in Albania, killing 8 people

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Police work at the scene of a car crash where several people, including migrants, were killed, near Kelcyre, Albania, Apr. 2, 2024.
Police work at the scene of a car crash where several people, including migrants, were killed, near Kelcyre, Albania, Apr. 2, 2024.

A car crashed into a river on Tuesday in southeastern Albania, killing all eight people inside, including seven suspected migrants and a local driver, police said.

The driver of the vehicle lost control and veered into the Vjosa River about 240 kilometers (150 miles) southeast of the capital, Tirana, around 4 a.m., according to a police statement. Seven of the victims were suspected to be "from third countries," it said, a description police often use to refer to migrants.

Regional police chief Ardian Cipa said the car failed to stop at a police checkpoint and sped away. A police vehicle then followed the car and saw it had crashed into the river.

"It is suspected the driver is from Shkodra and the others are suspected to be migrants who frequently pass this road," Cipa said, declining to give more details until the investigation is finished. Shkodra is a northwestern city around 300 kilometers (185 miles) from the accident site.

Police questioned a 26-year-old man who had rented the car.

Albania is not a primary route for migrants but small groups from Arab countries or Asia use it to reach Italy by sea or other neighboring countries by land.

Petrit Cano, a prosecutor in the southern district of Gjirokastra, said the accident was "the consequence of another criminal offense."

"Criminal elements in this area try continuously to be involved in this illegal activity, that is the transport of persons who illegally cross the state border and then want to continue their trip to the European Union countries," he said.

In 2019, Albania became the first non-EU member country to have officers of the bloc's border agency, Frontex, manage its borders in the south and east, which migrants usually cross, and fight cross-border crime.

Albania's Parliament in February approved a deal for the country to hold thousands of asylum seekers for Italy.

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