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Robbery of 10 Mio Euro in Front of Austrian Airlines Plane in Albania

Published: April 10, 2019; 18:17 · (Vindobona)

During a robbery at Tirana International Airport, robbers tried to steal 10 million euros from an Austrian Airlines aircraft. The plane was supposed to bring the money to Vienna and was just loading. In a fire fight with the police, a perpetrator was killed on the run. All robbers had been identified and the police are pursuing the rest of the gang.

An aircraft of this type, almost ready to take off for Vienna, was attacked by armed men while loading on the runway of the airport of the Albanian capital Tirana. The plane was to transport large amounts of cash for banks from Tirana to Vienna. / Picture: © Wikimedia Commons / Austrian Airlines from Austria [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]

Criminals with AK-47 rifles attacked an armored car at the airport of the Albanian capital Tirana before the eyes of air travellers in an Austrian Airlines plane ready for take-off.

According to the police of the Albanian capital, the robbers had entered the airport via a fire brigade access road and reached the runway.

The valuable cargo had just been loaded into the jet that was to depart for Vienna.

The plane was almost ready to take off, the boarding had just taken place and the passengers were already on board, when armed men attacked the money transporter.

The masked gunmen had driven their own van in front of the plane on the apron.

Under threat of armed force they took bags of money from the personnel of the money transporter and drove away.

According to the BBC, witnesses in the plane who had already started the engines reported that three men in masks and combat suits had come to the belly of the plane and forced workers to lie down on the ground.

Then they robbed the money that had just been loaded into the plane.

About 800 meters away, the robbers fought a firefight with policemen who wanted to stop them.

One of the attackers was killed. The others threw his body out of the wagon and escaped for the time being. The dead man was already identified as Admir Murataj.

The police started a comprehensive search. At first it was not clear how much money the robbers had captured.

Media reports first mentioned at least two million euros. According to BBC, they "are then thought to have entered the plane to steal as much as €10m in cash". "The robbers' van was later found burned out and one witness told Albanian TV that they had escaped by bicycle."

A spokeswoman for Austrian Airlines stressed that there had never been any danger for the crew or for passengers, some of whom had witnessed the attack from the jet.

The plane took off with a long delay and later landed safely in Vienna.

Organised crime is a major problem in Albania. The gangs often organize themselves along clan structures that are difficult for the law enforcement authorities to penetrate.

Most recently, thieves stole €3.2 million in February 2017, part of which was recovered in pressure cookers.

Prior to that, in 2016, a million euros was captured in a similar cash-in-transit robbery at Tirana airport.

According to Albanian Deputy Prime Minister Erion Brace, all robbers were identified and they were pursuing the rest of the gang.

The Tirana International Airport Nënë Tereza (Rinas International Airport), is Albania's main international airport.

It is named in honour of the Albanian Roman Catholic nun and missionary, Mother Teresa, who was an Albanian-Indian Roman Catholic nun and missionary, and who was born in Skopje, at that time part of the Kosovo Vilayet of the Ottoman Empire.