Brussels Airport stunned as robbers strike again

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Armed robbers have attacked a shipment of valuables being offloaded from a Sabena aircraft at Brussels National Airport just days after European airlines sharply criticised security at the hub.

Shots were fired as three robbers attempted to steal the cargo at about 21:15 last night as it was being transported across the apron after arriving on a Sabena ATR 72 turboprop from Luxembourg.

There were no passengers on the aircraft or in the vicinity at the time, only crew members, and no-one was injured during the attack. Although the bandits escaped, and are being hunted by police, a spokesman for Brussels Airport says the robbers missed their intended target and failed to snatch the valuables.

But this latest heist has sent shockwaves through the airport authority, which had been about to implement a series of new security measures drawn up in the wake of a robbery at the end of last year, during which armed raiders attacked a Lufthansa Airbus A319 at Brussels and stole a cargo of diamonds.

Last month the Association of European Airlines (AEA) blasted security at Brussels, claiming in a letter to the Belgian Government that the airport’s security did not comply with international standards. It singled out a lack of measures to prevent airside access by unauthorised persons.

But despite last night’s robbery the Brussels Airport spokesman rejects the AEA claim, saying: “We have safety measures comparable to those at Amsterdam, Paris and other major airports.

“What can we do? These robbers first removed a concrete barrier, then cut through the perimeter fence. We have several kilometres of fencing. We cannot post guards along the fence every couple of hundred yards, 24hrs a day.”

He stresses that new security guidelines are awaiting approval and that further urgent measures, particularly relating to the transport of valuables across the apron, will be discussed following yesterday’s attack.

In its letter the AEA has warned that member airlines might be forced to refuse requests to handle valuable goods at Brussels if the security situation does not improve.