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Gang blows up building and uses war-like tactics as they steal almost $55m in "robbery of the century"

Mirror logo Mirror 25/04/2017 Chris kitching

Credits: REUTERS © Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc Credits: REUTERS

A ruthless gang armed with grenades, a rocket launcher and assault rifles blew up the front of a building and killed a police officer to pull off the "robbery of the century".

Dozens of masked gunmen set off explosives and torched cars as they stormed the Prosegur private security firm and raided vaults in a highly organised operation.

The gang engaged in several fierce gun battles with police as they escaped with up to $40m (£31m) in cash.

At least one police officer and three robbers were killed, while another four were taken into custody as the gang of around 50 gunmen used war tactics during the daring heist .

Gang members used explosives to blow open a hole in the front of the building in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, in what authorities have described as the "robbery of the century".

They lobbed grenades and set at least 15 vehicles on fire as they stole millions from vaults which are large enough to store up to $30m.

Credits: REUTERS

Credits: REUTERS
© Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc
A police officer, identified as special operations officer Sabino Ramón Benítez, was killed by the gang as he guarded the building. Three passers-by were injured during the siege in Paraguay's second-largest city.

Alejandro Anisimoff and his family, who live in a neighbouring building, hid when robbers invaded their home.

He told CNN : "We heard non-stop turmoil for an hour. Within that hour, five grenades blew off here. We hid upstairs in one of the bedrooms."

Witness Antonio del Puerto told AFP that the sound of explosions echoed through the city "like bombs in a war" as the building was destroyed.

It's not known how much was taken but the vaults were believed to be full when the heist began at around midnight on Monday.

Prosecutor Denise Duarte compared the destruction following the unprecedented attack to a war zone in Syria.

Police tried to respond to the raid but were prevented from leaving their headquarters by gang members who blocked roads with cars and were armed with an anti-aircraft rocket launcher during a fierce battle that lasted two hours.

Snipers fired shots at police and caltrops, spiked objects which can deflate tyres, were left on the road to prevent officers from responding.

After stealing millions the gang fled into neighbouring Brazil, where another gun battle erupted between about a dozen suspects and police in Itaipulandia.

Three robbers were killed in that shootout, with police seizing bags filled with cash, cars, boats, machine guns, explosives and bulletproof vests.

At least nine suspects have been arrested so far.

Detectives believe the heist was carried out by Primer Comando de la Capital, one of Brazil's largest gangs.

It is believed the gang loaded the cash into Prosegur armoured trucks and then transferred then transferred their loot onto boats on the Parana River.

Authorities are now looking into whether the gang had help inside the police force.

It's not the first time the vaults have been targeted by raiders.

In 2015 police disrupted a plot to break into the building when they discovered a tunnel leading to the building from a house nearby, El Pais reported. 

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