World

Libyan gunmen steal over $50 million from bank van

TRIPOLI, Libya — Gunmen ambushed a Libyan bank van and made away with over $50 million on a highway east of Tripoli, officials said Tuesday. The heist underscores the weakness of the central government in the North African country, where authorities are struggling to control unruly militias.

A security official said that the Central Bank van had no guards accompanying it when it was ambushed near the city of Sirte late Monday. The official news agency LANA, quoting a bank official who was with the van, said that a single carload of guards was escorting the money on its way from Sirte’s airport to the local bank branch, but they were unable to resist the 10 attackers.

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The money was a mix of foreign currency and Libyan dinars. LANA said that $40 million was in dinars and at least $12 million in foreign currency, without specifying which.

The official said the foreign currency consisted of $10 million in US dollars and between 2 and 5 million euros ($2.7 to $7 million).

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The two accounts could not immediately be reconciled. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to media.

LANA quoted Colonel Khaled al-Akari, a security official in Sirte, as saying troops had closed the entries and exits of the city to try to apprehend the thieves. Sirte was a main support base for longtime dictator Moammar Khadafy, and he made his final stand there before he was captured and killed in October 2011.

Libya lacks a centralized police force and a strong national army, so the government has to rely on militias that were part of the war against Khadafy. But they often have conflicting political loyalties.

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Assassinations and revenge killings are commonplace,
fueled by longstanding grudges dating to Khadafy’s rule, regional and tribal conflicts, and tensions between hard-line Islamists and other groups.

Associated Press

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