Police: Albanian man with knife wounds 5 at mosque in Tirana

Llazar Semini
Associated Press

Tirana, Albania – An Albanian man with a knife wounded five people Monday at a mosque in the capital, police said, as investigators tried to determine a motive for the attack.

Rudolf Nikolli, 34, entered the Dine Hoxha mosque in downtown Tirana at about 2:30 p.m., a police statement said. Police said they reacted immediately after the attack began and took him into custody. The Top Channel private television station, however, showed civilians blocking Nikolli before the police arrived.

This Monday, April 19, 2021 photo provided by the Albanian Police shows Rudolf Nikolli, 34, after his arrest in Tirana, Albania.

An investigation was launched and authorities didn’t immediately disclose why the man had carried out the attack.

The five wounded, all men ranging in age from 22 to 35, were taken to a hospital and police said their conditions weren’t life-threatening.

Nikolli’s father, Niko, told Balkanweb online media that his son has been depressed since last year after he wasn’t allowed to leave for Italy. Rudolf had also been infected with the coronavirus.

“Though I am a Catholic I have told him OK (to go to the mosque), because my wife is a Muslim. ‘If you do not want to go to the church, go to the mosque as normal people do,’ I’ve told him,” he said, adding that his son was often prevented from entering mosques by worshippers because they told him he was a Christian.

Ahmed Kalaja, imam of the mosque, said the armed man attacked worshipers and staff at a time when the mosque was filled with believers during the fasting month of Ramadan.

“We hope it was not a terrorist attack,” said Kalaja, adding that the five wounded believers were praying when Nikolli attacked them.

Albania’s 2.8 million people are predominantly Muslim with smaller Christian Catholic and Orthodox communities that have gotten along well with each other.

Police said Nikolli was from the northern town of Burrel and his religious background wasn’t yet clear. Later, his father said that his son was converted to Islam by an imam in the town.