By January 1997 Albanian citizens, who had lost a total of $1.2 billion–the population being only three million–took their protest to the streets. Beginning in February thousands of citizens launched daily protests demanding reimbursement by the government, which they believed was profiting from the schemes. On March 1 Prime Minister Aleksandër Meksi resigned and on March 2 President Sali Berisha declared a state of emergency. On March 11 the Socialist Party of Albania won a major victory when its leader, Bashkim Fino, was appointed prime minister. However, the transfer of power did not halt the unrest and protests spread to northern Albania. Although the government quelled revolts in the north, the ability of the government and military to maintain order began to collapse, especially in the southern half of Albania, which fell under the control of rebels and criminal gangs.
All major population centers were engulfed in demonstrations by March 13 and foreign countries began to evacuate their citizens. These evacuations included Operation Libelle, Operation Silver Wake and Operation Kosmas. The United Nations Security Council, in Resolution 1101, authorized a force of 7,000 on March 28 to direct relief efforts and to restore order to Albania. The UN feared the unrest would spread beyond Albania’s borders and send refugees throughout Europe. On April 15 the 7,000 troops launched Operation Sunrise, an Italian-led mission that helped restore the rule of law. After the unrest, looted weapons were made available to the Kosovo Liberation Army,many making their way to the Kosovo War (1998–99).