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Thousands pay their respects to renowned Albanian writer Ismail Kadare at his state funeral

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Thousands of people paid their last respects to Ismail Kadare in a state funeral held in Tirana Wednesday, with a minute’s silence held nationwide in memory of the renowned Albanian novelist and poet who died earlier this week.

Kadare’s coffin, surrounded by National Guard officers, lay in state in the entrance hall of the Opera and Ballet Theater in the capital’s central Skanderbeg Square as his poems were recited in the background.

“He came, wrote and left,” Prime Minister Edi Rama said during the ceremony, adding that Kadare had put Albanian literature “into the pantheon of world letters.”

As his coffin left the hall, the crowd outside in Skanderbeg Square clapped and threw flowers.

Two days of mourning have been declared in Albania, where flags flew at half-staff across the country. Neighboring Kosovo, with a predominantly ethnic Albanian population, also declared Wednesday a day of mourning. Officials from Kosovo and neighboring North Macedonia, which has a sizable ethnic Albanian minority, attended the funeral ceremony.

“Ismail Kadare will always be remembered as a promoter of national pride, like no one else,” said Kosovo President Bajram Begaj.

Kadare was buried in a private service attended by his family members following the funeral ceremony.

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