Masked gunmen have reportedly stolen millions of dollars worth of diamonds after crashing their vehicles through the security fence surrounding the Brussels airport.
According to the Dutch newspaper, The Bulletin, two vans crashed through a security gate at the Brussels International Airport late Monday evening, driving across the tarmac towards a Brinks Armored Car loading diamonds and gold onto a Swiss airplane bound for Zurich.
Once arriving at the Helvetic Airways aircraft, eight gunman, armed with automatic rifles, dressed in dark uniforms and driving vehicles with blue lights on top, exited the two vans. While some of the gunman held the armored car's security officers at gunpoint, others began unloading an estimated $50 million worth of diamonds into the vehicles. Anja Bijnens, a spokeswoman for the Brussels prosecutor's office, told the Associated Press:
"They tried to pass themselves off as police officers."
Jan Van Der Crujsse, an airport spokesman, said no shots were fired during the incident and no one was injured. She told CNN:
"This was a very precise, almost military-organized and well-executed robbery. We are an airport that is, as all international airports are, subject to very strict aviation security and safety regulations. It comes as a big surprise that something like this is possible. But of course, this is rather connected to banditism and organized crime rather than aviation security."
The robbers clearly targeted the Swiss plane, and investigators believe someone with the airport, Brinks or the airline are somehow involved. A van found burned just west of the airport a short time after the robbery is being investigated.
Philip Baum, an aviation security consultant in Britain, called the robbery "worrying", saying it appears as if the response to the security breach was not immediate. He told NBC News:
"It does seem very worrying that someone can actually have the time to drive two vehicles onto the airport, effect the robbery, and drive out without being intercepted."
The flight, operated by Helvetic Airways, was canceled after the robbery. A spokesperson for the airline decline to comment on the robbery, citing it was an ongoing investigation.