Kosovo ex-communist leader wounded in assassination attempt

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PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — A former communist leader in Kosovo was shot and wounded in an assassination attempt Monday in his apartment in the capital, authorities said, but he said that his injuries weren't life-threatening.

The 68-year-old Azem Vllasi, now a lawyer, told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that the assailant used a gun equipped with a silencer. He was taken to a hospital for treatment.

Vllasi was kept under tight police security in his hospital room. An Associated Press cameraman was not allowed to interview him.

Police called the morning shooting in Pristina an assassination attempt, but didn't say whether they believed it was related to Vllasi's work as a communist-era leader or as a lawyer.

Police said they have arrested two suspects, and have found the pistol and the silencer believed to have been used in the attack.

Vllasi was one of the top Kosovo leaders in the 1980s when the Serbian province was engulfed in protests by ethnic Albanians demanding more rights and separation from Serbia — then a republic within Yugoslavia. Vllasi initially condemned the protesters, but years later he joined the movement seeking Kosovo's independence.

President Hashim Thaci and Prime Minister Isa Mustafa denounced the shooting, wishing Vllasi a fast recovery and urged authorities to complete the investigation.

"Such acts are unacceptable and punishable in a society where the main priority is the strengthening of the rule of law and order," Thaci said.

The government issued a statement saying that it "considers that such acts are totally unacceptable in a democratic society."

Kosovo's Foreign Ministry also condemned the attack, adding that Vllasi has been an outside adviser in recent months "for a number of regional issues."

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