Heavily armed robbers have targeted an Austrian Airlines flight in Albania, reportedly stealing millions of euros from its cargo. Passengers were on board the plane at the time.
One man was shot dead and four others were arrested in Albania on Tuesday, following a high-stakes robbery at the Teresa Rinasi International Airport, just north of the capital Tirana.
Armed robbers wearing masks stormed the airport runway in the afternoon and stole millions of euros from an Austria Airlines flight. The robbers managed to gain access through a gate reserved for firefighters.
Dressed in military fatigues, three robbers threatened employees handling the flight's luggage in order to get hold of the money.
Passengers on board
Austrian Airlines spokeswoman Tanja Gruber said the cash was being loaded just as the robbers arrived.
"Boarding had just taken place. There was never any danger for crew and passengers," Gruber said. She added that the heist caused the plane's departure to be delayed by nearly three hours.
Authorities caught up with the robbers one kilometer away from the airport.
"The perpetrators exchanged fire with police during the chase in a secondary road and one of them died in that exchange," the police statement said.
According to media reports from the scene, the dead man was found with an assault weapon, a grenade and magazines.
Police have not commented on the exact amount that was stolen. But it has been reported that the sum was roughly €2.5 million ($2.8 million), although local media have claimed that it could be five times higher.
At least two similar heists have taken place at Tirana's airport in the past three years.
Albania-based foreign banks routinely ship out hard currency to Vienna via air through its international airport, because the Balkan country's central bank does not accept their deposits of hard currency.
jcg/aw (AFP, AP, Reuters)