‘Millions’ robbed in French cash van kidnap and heist

The robbery began in the evening in the southeastern French city of Lyon, where two men pretending to be plumbers kidnapped a young woman from her apartment. (Shutterstock)
Updated 09 February 2018
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‘Millions’ robbed in French cash van kidnap and heist

LYON: Robbers posing as plumbers kidnapped the daughter of a cash van driver and demanded the vehicle’s contents as ransom in a heist that could have netted them over 20 million euros, investigators said Friday.
The hold-up, which resembles the plot of a Hollywood action movie, took place Thursday near the French-Swiss border.
It began in the evening in the southeastern French city of Lyon, where two men pretending to be plumbers kidnapped a young woman from her apartment, a source close to the investigation told AFP.
They bundled her into a car and then had accomplices ring her father, who works for a Swiss company that transports money between companies and banks, to demand a ransom.
The father, who lives in the French border town of Annemasse, was carrying out a cash delivery when the call came through, Europe 1 radio reported.
He agreed to meet the kidnappers in a car park just across the border on the Swiss side, to hand over the van’s contents, investigators said.
Police in the Swiss canton of Vaud said that the father was en route to the Swiss city of Lausanne when he was forced to exit the motorway and head for the car park where he was met by robbers wearing gloves and balaclavas.
“There, several armed men who were awaiting the van made him park it. They then held up the delivery drivers, completely emptied the van’s contents and fled in a dark-colored Porsche SUV,” the Swiss police said in a statement Friday.
A French police source told AFP that the van was carrying “between 20 and 30 million Swiss francs ($21-32 million).”
A spokesman for the police in Vaud refused to confirm the amount.
The driver’s daughter, who is in her twenties, was found unharmed at around 10 p.m. (2100 GMT) on a road on the outskirts of Lyon.
She was questioned by police on Friday and said to be still in a state of shock.
“We have no reason to question her story,” a French source with knowledge of the investigation said, adding that police suspected a criminal gang.
No arrests have been made yet in the probe, which is being led by French police.
Swiss police said they were looking for three men with accented French, “maybe from the south of France or North Africa” and called on any witnesses to come forward.
“Many details remain unexplained,” the French source said, adding that the investigation was expected to take some time.


Taliban reject Afghan cease-fire, kidnap nearly 200 bus passengers

Updated 26 min 7 sec ago
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Taliban reject Afghan cease-fire, kidnap nearly 200 bus passengers

  • The Taliban have launched a wave of attacks in different parts of the country in recent weeks
  • In June the Taliban agreed to a ceasefire during Eid Al-Fitr festival, but said this helped the US

KABUL: The Taliban rejected on Monday an Afghan government offer of a cease-fire and they would persist with their attacks, two militant commanders said, while insurgents ambushed three buses and nearly 200 passengers traveling for a holiday.
The two Taliban commanders said their supreme leader rejected President Ashraf Ghani’s Sunday offer of a three-month cease-fire, beginning with this week’s Eid Al-Adha Muslim holiday.
In June, the Taliban observed a government cease-fire over the three-day Eid Al-Fitr festival, leading to unprecedented scenes of government soldiers and militants embracing on front lines, and raising hopes for talks.
But one of the Taliban commanders said the June cease-fire had only helped US forces, who the Taliban are trying to drive out of the country, and Taliban leader Sheikh Haibatullah Akhunzada rejected the new offer on the grounds it would only help the US-led mission.
“Our leadership feels that they’ll prolong their stay in Afghanistan if we announced a cease-fire now,” a senior Taliban commander, who declined to be identified, said by telephone.
An official in Ghani’s office said the three-month-long cease-fire declared by the government was conditional, and if the Taliban did not respect it, the government would maintain military operations.
The Taliban have launched a wave of attacks in different parts of the country in recent weeks, including on the city of Ghazni, southwest of Kabul. Hundreds of people have been killed in the fighting.
The rejection of Ghani’s cease-fire came as government officials were trying to secure the release of at least 170 civilians and 20 members of the security forces who were taken hostage by Taliban from three buses in the northern province of Kunduz.
Esmatullah Muradi, a spokesman for the governor of Kunduz, said the kidnapping happened when three buses were traveling through Kunduz from Takhar province, on their way to the capital, Kabul.
“The buses were stopped by the Taliban fighters, passengers were forced to step down and they have been taken to an undisclosed location,” Muradi said.
’Traveling for holiday’
The Taliban confirmed they had captured “three buses packed with passengers.”
“We decided to seize the buses after our intelligence inputs revealed that many men working with Afghan security forces were traveling to Kabul,” Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, said by telephone.
“We have taken the buses to a safe area to prevent any clashes and we are now identifying members of the security forces,” he said, adding that civilians would be released.
Kunduz provincial council member Sayed Assadullah Sadat said people on the buses were traveling to be with family in Kabul for the holiday.
A senior interior ministry official in Kabul said officials in the area were talking to Taliban leaders in Kunduz to get the estimated 190 hostages released.
“We’re are trying our level best to secure freedom for all passengers,” the official said.
Separately, Mujahid said the Taliban would release at least 500 prisoners, including members of the security forces on Monday, a day before Eid celebrations begin.
“We will release some prisoners captured during clashes in three provinces,” he said.
But he did not say if any soldiers or policemen taken from the three buses would be released.
Sporadic clashes between Taliban fighters and Afghan forces erupted on the outskirts of Ghazni on Monday as aid workers tried to get help in to the city, aid agency officials said.
The government has said its forces had secured the city after the Taliban laid siege to it for five days this month.
At least 150 soldiers and 95 civilians were killed and hundreds were injured.
Aid agencies officials said their teams had entered the city but clashes in the outskirts prevented them from launching large-scale operations.