Aviation: Albanian armed forces take over security of Tirana airport

Albanian Defense Minister Olta Xhacka said Wednesday that the Albanian armed forces will take over the security of the country’s only international airport after several armed men stole a large amount of money at the airport the previous day.

At a press conference, Xhacka said that she has ordered the military police forces and a special air forces battalion to install a security perimeter around Tirana International Airport (TIA).

She added that the event which took place at the airport is very serious.

Several robbers stole a large amount of cash while it was loading into an Austrian Airlines plane on Tuesday afternoon. One of the robbers was shot dead by the police forces during an exchange of fire, but the cash was not recovered.

According to Albanian media, the cash stolen amounts to nearly 10 million euros (11.3 million U.S. dollars), but the amount is not confirmed by the authorities.

So far police have declared that they have found the burned-out remains of three vehicles that were used in the heist in three different locations. The robber, who was killed, was identified by his wife as Admir Murataj, a criminal who had been at large since 2013.

Meanwhile, the robbery spurred debates over the responsibility for the security among the government officials and the Hong Kong-based China Everbright Ltd company, which has a concession to run TIA until 2027.

Albanian Interior Minister Sander Lleshaj claimed that the security mechanisms, which are under the concessionary’s responsibility, have not functioned.

In an official statement, TIA termed Lleshaj’s statement as incorrect, saying that the airport security cameras were made available and the police forces were informed on time.

“TIA has been correct in fulfilling its duties in relation to the event according to all rules and procedures,” read the statement.

At a press conference, Albanian President Ilir Meta called on authorities to find the perpetrators as soon as possible, calling the event a serious threat to national security, public order and the country’s image.

Albanian banks mostly transfer their cash by plane through the country’s international airport.

Other similar robberies were registered in Albania before. In February 2017, thieves managed to steal 3.2 million euros in a similar robbery, and in June 2016, 995,000 euros were stolen.