Diamonds target of Lufthansa A319 robbers

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It has been confirmed that a Lufthansa Airbus A319 bound for Frankfurt from Brussels and carrying a significant cargo of diamonds, was attacked two nights ago by machinegun-toting robbers.

The incident - bearing a remarkable similarity to one at Findel Airport in Luxembourg three weeks ago - occurred as a Brinks & Ziegler security van was unloading valuables onto the A319 when it was stormed by four heavily-armed robbers although unlike the previous situation no-one was injured.

Brussels Airport aviation affairs executive vice president General Andre Gravet says: "These men were armed with machineguns and kalashnikovs as well as other guns and used a white vehicle with false number plates to gain entrance to the airport.

"We interviewed dozens of people but the robbers [apparently] were not disguised - it was 20:00 at night. The van was a Brinks & Ziegler - the same company involved in the Luxembourg incident."

The A319 was parked normally at the gate with an air bridge leading to the aircraft doors and was about to board the 46 passengers bound for Frankfurt, when the four men attacked.

According to Gravet, some degree of inside help must have been a prerequisite as no doors or gates were forced and the robbers gained easy access to the aircraft apron.

"It is probably the hypothesis that it is almost impossible for people to get out [of the airport] without knowing someone on the inside," he says.

"We will have a high level meeting on Monday with those responsible for security and will put in place other measures following this incident. There are some 22km (13.8m) of road around the airport but if you go too far with controls, you will make the airport unoperational".

Lufthansa says that there were 16.7kg (36.8lb) of valuables stolen from a single shipment of seven cases and that although no-one was injured, the aircraft was impounded by Belgian police until midnight last night.

The Belgian press reports that the white van in which the diamond thieves made their getaway was subsequently found on fire around two hours later in the Trois Fontaines area in Vilvorde. No trace has been found of the robbers since.

Lufthansa's experience comes three weeks after another Brink's Ziegler van was attacked by armed robbers as it was loading gold onto a Crossair Saab 2000 at Luxembourg's Findel Airport.

Both robbers inflicted serious injury on a security guard and a catering driver during the attack, before themselves becoming involved in a shoot-out with Luxembourg police.

No-one has so far confirmed any link between the two incidents and calls from ATI to Brinks Ziegler in Brussels were abruptly terminated by the security firm.