ALBANIA

Albanian police hunt for armed robbers disguised as Santa

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 December, 2013, 11:30pm
UPDATED : Friday, 27 December, 2013, 11:30pm
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Maybe their sleighs ran out of presents. Regardless of their excuse, four armed Santas who robbed a jewellery shop in the Albanian capital, Tirana, are now the target of a nationwide police dragnet.

The robbery, which was caught on video by a security camera in the TEG shopping centre, took place minutes before the shop closed on Christmas Eve.

The thieves, all dressed in traditional Santa outfits, burst into the store carrying Kalashnikov semi-automatic rifles and filled their sacks with the jewellery on display.

The only people in the shop at the time were the owner and his wife. Both were held at gunpoint, but neither was hurt.

The robbers, who were in the shop for less than three minutes, are thought to have fled the scene in a Mercedes. The car was was set alight after being driven off the road and the thieves fled.

It was not immediately known if the robbery was connected to a shoot-out involving the police which took place at about the same time near the village of Lanabregas.

Both the interior minister in Edi Rama's centre-left government, Samir Tahiri, and the head of the Albanian police, Artan Didi, visited the shopping centre as police began questioning witnesses.

In a statement, Tirana district police said that two of the guns used by the masked thieves had been found in a waste bin near the shop.

Forensic and ballistic tests were being carried out on the weapons to see if they might yield clues.

The police added that a special unit had been set up to hunt for the four robbing Father Christmases.