Albanian Politician Killed in Car Bomb Explosion

An explosive device killed a conservative politician as he drove through northern Albania on Thursday, 10 days ahead of the country's parliamentary election, police said.

The leader of the victim's political party called it a terrorist attack, but police suggested organized crime groups may have been responsible.

Albanian electoral campaigns often are tense and marred by violence and irregularities. Last week, a man was fatally shot following an argument over a campaign poster, and in May an opposition lawmaker was killed.

Police said Aleksander Keka, a 34-year-old regional leader of Albania's opposition Christian Democratic Party, died in the explosion while driving near Shkodra, a city 75 miles north of Tirana, the capital.

Police said an explosive device was used, but did not say whether it was hidden in the car or on the road the vehicle was traveling. Police said Keka was alone in the car, not with a passenger who was injured, as authorities had reported earlier.

Christian Democratic Party leader Nard Ndoka called Keka's death an act of terrorism and said he had been waiting to meet the regional leader in Shkodra when the explosion occurred.

"It was a clear political attack, a terrorist act," Ndoka said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. He said he believed the bomb had been detonated by remote control, based on accounts given by local residents near the scene of the blast.

The Christian Democrats were until recently part of the governing coalition of Prime Minister Sali Berisha.

A delegation from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe will be monitoring the June 28 election, during which the conservative Berisha will face a challenge from Edi Rama, the Socialist leader and the mayor of Tirana.

Keka was not a candidate in the parliamentary election.

Police alleged in a statement that Keka had ties with organized crime groups who may have been responsible for the explosion that killed him, but Ndoka angrily rejected that possibility.

"That is a dirty slander. ... Clearly, this act was politically inspired," he said.