National alert as police hunt armed raiders

Sweden's police departments have been put on high alert following an armed raid on a security van in Årsta, in the south of Stockholm. At least five robbers threatened the guards with automatic weapons before blowing a hole in the side of the vehicle and making off with an undisclosed sum.

The drama began just after 3pm as the Securitas van’s route was blocked by a green Jeep Cherokee. Five masked men approached the vehicle and one of them, who was apparently wearing a police jacket, fired shots in the air.

“The robbers shot open the passenger door and forced out the guards,” said Aftonbladet’s Oisin Cantwell, who was one of the first reporters on the scene. “Then they blew apart part of the vehicle.” Witnesses reported hearing a powerful explosion.

“This is how they were able to get the goods out of the security van,” said Kjell Lindgren of Stockholm Police to Dagens Nyheter.

“There was an earlier report that one of the guards had been shot but that wasn’t true – naturally he is shaken and shocked, but no physical injuries,” he said.

Aftonbladet reported that at least three cars were involved in the operation, which left a “gaping hole” in the van.

“We don’t know how much they got away with,” said police spokesman Björn Pihlblad to Aftonbladet. “But we know that they had loaded up.”

A Ford Escort was found on fire nearby and a Saab was also discovered soon after the robbery. But the gang appears to have escaped in the Jeep, dropping so-called “Spanish riders” – metal spikes – in the road behind them to stop police pursuing them.

“That sounds about right,” said Pihlblad. “The area has been tidied up now, but let’s see how many people are forced to buy new winter tyres thanks to this.”

Aftonbladet pointed out that the robbery bore several similarities to a raid on another security van in the Ropsten area of Stockholm on November 17th. Three cars were also used in that incident – including a Jeep Cherokee – and one was set on fire.

Nevertheless, Pihlblad said that there were no particular suspects yet.

A massive police hunt was underway on Monday evening, with the elite SWAT unit, NI, joining the hunt along with dog patrols and helicopters.

“This is priority, so we have put in place a special operation,” Kjell Lindgren told DN. “Even so-called domestic search, which means that we are using existing records and exploiting all the information channels we have at our disposal.”

Sources: Dagens Nyheter, Expressen, Aftonbladet