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Gunmen seize truck carrying more than $50 million in cash in Libya

By Jomana Karadsheh, CNN
updated 1:48 PM EDT, Tue October 29, 2013
Image #: 25111201 epa03928819 An exterior view of the Libyan Central Bank headquarters in Tripoli, Libya, 29 October 2013. Media reports state that gunmen on 29 October attacked a van operated by the Libyan Central Bank, and got away with the equivalent of 54 million dollars. The van was carrying the money from the airport of the central city of Sirte to the central bank's branch in the city, located 500 kilometers east of the Libyan capital Tripoli. EPA/SABRI ELMHEDWI /LANDOV
Image #: 25111201 epa03928819 An exterior view of the Libyan Central Bank headquarters in Tripoli, Libya, 29 October 2013. Media reports state that gunmen on 29 October attacked a van operated by the Libyan Central Bank, and got away with the equivalent of 54 million dollars. The van was carrying the money from the airport of the central city of Sirte to the central bank's branch in the city, located 500 kilometers east of the Libyan capital Tripoli. EPA/SABRI ELMHEDWI /LANDOV
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Truck with Libyan dinars, U.S. dollars and euros was traveling to a bank in Sirte
  • 10 men who had small and medium-size weapons intercepted it Monday evening
  • Sirte Local Council condemns the incident, calls on residents to cooperate with security forces
  • In Monday and Tuesday attacks, gunmen kill two, wound a military officer in Benghazi

Tripoli, Libya (CNN) -- Security forces in Libya are searching for heavily armed men who seized a truck carrying more than $50 million in cash in the city of Sirte, the state news agency LANA reported Tuesday.

The group of 10 men intercepted the truck, which was carrying 53 million Libyan dinars (about $43 million) and another 12 million dinars (around $10 million) in euros and U.S. dollars Monday evening.

The money shipment from the Central Bank of Libya was flown in from Tripoli and was on its way to the bank's Sirte branch when the truck was intercepted at an intersection near the airport by the group, which carried small and medium-size weapons.

Bank officials told LANA the truck was escorted by only one security vehicle and the guards were not able to defend against the robbery. All commercial banks in the city were closed Tuesday in protest, LANA said.

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In July, masked gunmen made off with more than $400,000 from at least two banks in Sirte.

The Libyan economy is primarily cash-only, and there has been concern about the rise in criminal activity across the country over the past year.

In a statement Tuesday, the Sirte Local Council condemned the incident and called on residents to cooperate with security forces and provide any information they have that could help bring the perpetrators to justice.

Sirte, about 400 kilometers (250 miles) southeast of Tripoli, is the birthplace of former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi and was his hiding place before his capture and killing in 2011. It was heavily damaged in the fighting in that year's civil war. Many residents complain about a lack of jobs, say they are neglected by the central government in Tripoli and are still demanding compensation for their damaged homes and losses from the revolution.

The country's weak central government has been struggling to exert its authority over the hundreds of militias that operate freely two years after the fall of the Gadhafi regime.

The deteriorating security situation and the growing power of militias were highlighted this month with Prime Minister Ali Zeidan's brief kidnapping by a militia in the capital. Another militia released Zeidan a few hours later.

Violence in Benghazi

In the eastern city of Benghazi, which has been plagued by violence for more than a year, there has been a noticeable increase in bombings and shootings in recent weeks.

At least two people were killed and five others wounded in a drive-by shooting that targeted a protest tent in central Benghazi on Monday evening, the state news agency said.

The protest was by members of Gen. Abdel Fattah Younes' tribe.

Younes, who was Gadhafi's interior minister until his defection in 2011, became the top rebel commander and was killed by a rebel faction under mysterious circumstances later that year.

Members of his tribe and other supporters are still demanding those responsible be brought to justice.

Car bomb blasts buildings in Benghazi

In another attack Tuesday morning, gunmen wounded a military officer in an assassination attempt outside his home in the al-Salmani district of Benghazi, LANA reported. The attack was the latest in an assassination campaign in the city that has primarily targeted security forces members, most of whom held positions in the former regime.

Over the past 10 days, at least four senior security forces members, including the head of the country's military police, have been assassinated in the city.

In a report released by Human Rights Watch in August, the watchdog reported the deaths of more than 50 people in what it said was a "broadening wave of political assassinations" focused mostly in the eastern cities of Derna and Benghazi.

However, in its report, the rights group said the number of those killed "is probably higher."

No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, and there has been public outrage in the city over what activists and residents say is a lack of accountability.

So far, no one has been brought to justice in the escalating violence that many residents blame on Islamist militant groups operating in eastern Libya.

Police commander shot dead in Benghazi

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