Dramatic shoot-out sets off manhunt

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Police in Oslo set off a massive manhunt during the weekend after four heavily armed and masked robbers fired automatic weapons into the air on a city street, stormed into a downtown jewelry and clothing store, smashed its glass counters and made off with large quantities of valuables in the middle of the day. They fired again as they fled, and their getaway car was found in flames just a block away about a half-hour later.

The dramatic robbery occurred around noon on an unusually sunny Saturday on Schweigaards Gate, the busy retail street running through the heart of Oslo’s Grønland district. It’s a popular, multi-cultural area and the streets as usual were full of shoppers, pedestrians and vehicles.

Terrified customers
It all began suddenly when the robbers, believed to be four young men, started firing what one witness described as “machine guns” into the air outside their apparent target, the Sheikh Enterprises store selling clothing and gold jewelry located in a strip of other retail establishments. Witnesses told police and Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that the four then stormed into the store, waving their automatic weapons and threatening everyone around them.

Police video shows how terrified customers ran out of the store while the four masked robbers all wearing the same dark clothing and gloves started smashing glass cases and emptying them of valuables. Within a matter of minutes, they ran back outside, fired their weapons again and fled in a Swedish-registered Audi A3.

The getaway car was found ablaze just a short while later on nearby Heimdalsgata. Police reported that they think the four robbers continued their getaway in a black BMW.

‘Very scared’
No one was injured in the robbery and shoot-out, but witnesses including a 12-year-old girl spoke of being “very scared” while police said employees of the store were traumatized. A massive manhunt that continued throughout the night included the use of helicopters, police blockades and cooperation from neighbouring police districts. Armed police stopped motorists in the nearby Tøyen district and searched their cars, while all border crossings were alerted as well.

Police operations leader vowed to nab the robbers, alarmed by how brazen the robbery was, and how dangerous. “They did this right in the middle of the day, with hundreds of people in the area,” Tore Barstad of the Oslo Police District told NRK. “The potential for injury was enormous. We’re going to get these people.”

No arrests had been reported by Sunday afternoon “but we’re working intensely on the case,” Tore Grøttum of the Oslo Police told news bureau NTB.

Kasim Ahmad, the 23-year-old manager of the jewelry store that was hit, told newspaper VG that he recently took over Sheikh Enterprises, which also was robbed around four years ago. “This is terrible, and clearly a huge shock,” Ahmad told VG. He said he wasn’t yet able to estimate the amount of the losses.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund