italy crime gang rips open security van with diggers near bari

Italy crime: Gang rips open security van with diggers near Bari

The damaged security van near Bari, southern ItalyImage copyright RAI
Image caption The diggers were abandoned at the scene

Italian police are hunting for robbers who stole €2.3m (£2m; $2.6m) after trapping and ripping open a security van on a highway in the far south.

The gang of four blocked off the van with two lorries on State Highway 96 near Bari, then fired into the air to intimidate the guards, local media say.

Two mechanical diggers were used like can openers to prise open the back of the vehicle and get at the cash.

The three guards in the van were not hurt but were said to be in shock.

Both lorries were set ablaze while the diggers were abandoned at the scene after the ambush, which happened at about 07:30 (06:30 GMT) on Wednesday.

The masked robbers, said to have automatic weapons, escaped in two cars and the highway was shut for several hours as police investigated.

The money had been intended to pay pensions in the nearby town of Matera.

According to Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, robbers in the same region of Italy, Puglia, tried and failed twice last year to open a security van with a digger.

Diggers have long been used by thieves to break into cash machines, notably in Northern Ireland last year where there was a spate of attacks.

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Media captionThe aftermath of a cash machine robbery in Northern Ireland