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U.S. Forces Evacuate Americans from Albania

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 31, 1997 – U.S. forces evacuated nearly 900 people from Albania after civil unrest erupted following the collapse of a financial pyramid scheme. The fledgling democracy is the poorest nation in Europe, according to a DoD spokesman.

Operation Silver Wake began in mid-March when a forward command element of about 25 U.S. Marines entered the capital city of Tirana to assist the U.S. ambassador with evacuation planning. About 170 U.S. Marines were involved at the operation's peak, the spokesman said.

The effort lasted 13 days and ended March 26; it was temporarily interrupted at the start, after U.S. helicopters took some ground fire and other U.S. aircraft were attacked by shoulder-fired missiles. Of those evacuated, 400 were American citizens and 489 were third country nationals, the spokesman said.

About 100 U.S. Marines will remain in Tirana providing security for the U.S. Embassy and housing compound until appropriate security arrangements can be re-established in the country, the spokesman said.

The amphibious transport USS Nashville and destroyer USS Ramage are currently off shore to provide logistic and communications support for the Marine contingent, officials said.

U.S. forces also rescued 105 Albanian refugees March 16 and 17 from unsafe and overcrowded vessels, the spokesman said.

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