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Armed men snatch millions from Libyan central bank van

A group of armed men is reported to have stolen cash worth millions of euros from Libya’s central bank. The authorities are still looking for both the gunmen and the money.

A report from Libya's state news agency, LANA, said "10 heavily armed men" had made off with the equivalent of around $54 million (39 million euros) after attacking a van transporting the funds into the central bank's branch in the coastal city of Sirte on Monday. The van was on its way into the city from Sirte's airport after the funds had been transported by plane from Tripoli, where the headquarters of the central bank is located. Most of the funds were in Libyan dinars, but they also included large quantities of US dollars and euros.

Details remained sketchy several hours after the robbery occurred, but the LANA report said only one vehicle carrying security guards had been assigned to escort the van and that they "were unable to resist the 10 attackers."

The head of the Sirte city council, Abdel-Fattah Mohammed, was quoted by the Reuters news agency as saying local authorities had repeatedly asked for better security to be assigned to such transport operations.

"The robbing is a catastrophe not just for Sirte but the whole of Libya," Mohammed said.

Sirte, located 500 kilometers (300 miles) east of Tripoli, has been much quieter than many other parts of the country, which has experienced a wave of violence since rebels ousted longtime Libyan leader Mohamar Gadhafi in 2011. The Libyan government has struggled to assert its authority over a wide range of armed groups, including armed militias, gangs and Islamist extremists.

pfd/tj (Reuters, AFP, dpa)