Large police operation under way to catch Trikala Prison fugitives

Two monasteries in the mountains of Nafpaktos in western Greece have become the focus of a large-scale police operation to net a gang of fugitives from Trikala Prison, who have been on a crime spree since their escape in early March and are believed to be responsible for the deaths of two people.

Eleven convicts, all Albanian nationals, escaped from Trikala Prison in central Greece is early March during an attack with grenades and automatic weapons on the facility by accomplices on the outside. Two prison guards were injured in the assault. Eight of the fugitives were apprehended in the subsequent days, one after attempting an armed holdup on a supermarket in Athens, and three have been on the run since. They are believed to be traveling with the men who orchestrated the prison break.

Since the escape, the gang is believed to have caused the death of a female motorist caught in the crossfire during a shootout with police outside Corinth in March and to have shot dead a policeman near the village of Distomo in the prefecture of Viotia on Monday as they eluded capture at a roadblock.

The fugitives again eluded police in the early hours of Thursday when they threatened officers with Kalashnikov assault rifles and made off into the mountains of Nafpaktos in a vehicle that had been reported stolen by its owner.

Authorities believe there are at least five people in the gang and have evidence and eye-witness testimony to suggest that they have been traveling around the country in stolen vehicles and holing up at remote locations.

Following their latest escape from capture, hundreds of police officers have been recruited from all over the country to surround two monasteries in the area of Efpalio, where the fugitives are believed to be hiding.