Albania manhunt after gang target plane in ‘€10m heist’

Austrian Airlines plane
The Austrian Airlines plane was held up as it was preparing to leave for Vienna (Image: AFP)

A suspected gang leader was shot dead after a dramatic raid on an Austrian airlines plane on the runway at Tirana airport in Albania.

Passengers waiting for the Airbus plane to leave Mother Teresa airport near the capital saw the gang approach security police wielding AK-47 rifles.

They are then thought to have entered the plane to steal as much as €10m (£8.5m; $11m) in cash.

The gang fled but then ran into a police patrol and opened fire.

What happened at the airport?

Albanian media showed footage of a white van carrying tax agency signs being driven inside the airport fence before the robbery at around 15:00 on Tuesday. It had apparently burst on to the site through a gate used by emergency services.

It is thought the masked gang had inside knowledge of the cash cargo that had been loaded on to the plane ahead of its flight to Vienna.

As Albania’s central bank does not accept deposits of hard currency, some locally based foreign banks have to ship foreign currency to Austria by plane. The airport has been targeted by robbers before.

The gang held up the guards and forced open the plane’s cargo doors before loading their vehicle with most of the cash on the plane. The robbery lasted three or four minutes, reports said.

They then drove away in the van but were confronted by police a short distance away. They opened fire and, when the patrol fired back, one of the three robbers was shot in the head.

Albanian reports say the dead man was later identified by his family as Admir Murataj.

Deputy Prime Minister Erion Brace praised the police, saying they had “eliminated the leader” and were pursuing the rest of the gang, saying all the robbers had been identified.

The robbers’ van was later found burned out and one witness told Albanian TV that they had escaped by bicycle.

As news of the robbery emerged, banking officials said they may have to stop transfers of cash to Vienna.

Organised crime gangs have been behind previous raids on cash transfers to Vienna.

Almost €1m was stolen in a raid in 2016 not far from the airport.

Then in February 2017 thieves stole €3.2m ($3.6m; £2.7m). Police later found some of the money stashed underground in pressure cookers.

Source: bbc.co.uk

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