Shooting in Swiss cafe kills two Albanians

Agnès PEDRERO
Police collect evidence at the site of a shooting in the Swiss city of Basel on March 9, 2017 which left two people dead and one seriously injured

Swiss police said Friday that a shooting by two gunmen at a cafe in the city of Basel was a targeted killing with no "terrorist" motive.

The assailants dressed in dark clothes burst into Basel's Cafe 56 at around 8:15 pm (1915 GMT) late Thursday and fired several rounds, according to police in the picturesque city on the Rhine river.

The three victims were all Albanian nationals, including two dead aged 28 and 39, while a 24-year-old was seriously injured, police said in a statement.

A bullet hole pierced one of the cafe's windows.

Terrorism is "excluded" as an element of the crime, which appeared to be a "targeted" attack on the victims, the statement said.

Locals said Cafe 56 has a checkered past.

It "was previously an establishment known for its links to the drug world", one resident told local newspaper Basler Zeitung.

"But since the ownership changed several years ago it became an ordinary cafe."

After the shooting, the gunmen believed to be in their thirties fled towards the train station, police said, adding that initial evidence suggests they are also from eastern Europe.

Public broadcaster RTS has previously reported that Albanian criminal organisations in Switzerland have ties to heroin trafficking, but police stressed that the motive for Thursday's shooting was not immediately clear.

A 2013 report from Swiss federal police said Albanian gangs operating in the wealthy Alpine nation have a track record of using commercial businesses like restaurants and travel agencies as a front for drug trafficking.

Gun crime is infrequent in Switzerland, even though the country has one of the highest rates of firearm ownership in the world.

Citizens are allowed to keep their army-issue weapons at home outside periods of mandatory military service.

This right has been controversial as the weapons are sometimes used in domestic incidents.

The number of weapons held at home is believed to be two million for a population of eight million, according to Swiss press.