TRIPOLI, Oct 29 — Gunmen attacked a central bank van in Libya yesterday, stealing US$54 million (RM169.3 million), in the latest sign of growing lawlessness since the 2011 overthrow of Moamer Kadhafi.
The official LANA news agency said “10 heavily armed men” had made off with the funds, which were destined for the Libyan central bank branch in the central city of Sirte, and had been flown there from Tripoli.
Citing a source from the local branch of the central bank, LANA said that the gunmen stole “53 million Libyan dinars (RM133 million)” and another US$12 million in US dollars and euros.
The gunmen attacked the van on the road between Sirte airport and the town itself, 500 kilometres (300 miles) east of Tripoli, LANA said, without saying if there had been any casualties.
Only one security vehicle had been assigned to protect the van, and the agency said the guards “were unable to resist the 10 attackers.”
The agency quoted a security official in the city as saying the vehicles used in the robbery had been identified and that police were hunting for the perpetrators.
A city official contacted by AFP said he had no further details about yesterday’s attacks but that two Sirte banks had been hit in July, with the robbers making off with 500,000 Libyan dinars.
Kadhafi freed tens of thousands of convicted criminals in the early days of the 2011 rebellion, many of whom have formed powerful gangs that have taken advantage of a flood of weapons from the fallen dictator's looted arsenal.
Sirte, the last bastion of support for Kadhafi to fall to rebel forces in the 2011 uprising, has largely been spared the wave of violence that has swept the country since the strongman's ouster.
The eastern city of Benghazi — cradle of the 2011 uprising — has seen a series of attacks in recent months, including the bombing of a reception hall early yesterday which caused damage but did not wound anyone.
Security forces spokesman Colonel Abdallah al-Zaidi said the homemade bomb contained some 12 kilogrammes (26 pounds) of TNT.
Two days earlier a bomb had exploded in the car of an electoral official in the same neighbourhood in Benghazi, damaging five cars but causing no casualties.
That explosion took place in the parking lot of a school that was being used as a centre for the committee organising municipal elections, for which no date has yet been set.
The government has called on the brigades of ex-rebels that overthrew Kadhafi to lay down their arms or join the security forces, but several militias have ignored its pleas and carved out their own fiefdoms across the vast, mostly-desert country.
In a brazen show of force, militiamen earlier this month captured Prime Minister Ali Zeidan and held him for several hours before releasing him.
Ten days later the head of an interior ministry anti-crime unit boasted that he was behind the “arrest” and said he was “proud” of it. — AFP