NEWS

Smuggling ambush goes awry

A police crackdown on a people-smuggling operation near the city of Corinth late on Monday was thwarted when two gunmen disarmed the officers and drove off with a truckful of 60 migrants. Police managed to arrest one of the gunmen later on Monday night and the second one yesterday afternoon but the 60 migrants remained at large. The ambush had started off promisingly. Four officers in two unmarked police cars arrived at Sofiko, a coastal town on the Athens-Corinth national road, late on Monday night after receiving a tip that a smuggling boat would be arriving with dozens of would-be migrants aboard. As expected, the officers spotted a white van and a car parked next to it. When they approached, the driver of the truck got out and fled on foot. Officers found the 60 migrants – Pakistanis and Bangladeshis – in the back of the truck and arrested the driver of the car. Two of the officers got into the truck and car and drove on ahead while the other two officers each took one of the unmarked police cars, one escorting the suspected smuggler. As the convoy approached Aspropyrgos, in northwestern Attica, a car stopped in the middle of the road, forcing the truck and two unmarked police cars to halt, though the fourth vehicle managed to get away. Two gunmen jumped out of the car in the middle of the highway and forced the policeman driving the truck and the officer driving the confiscated smugglers’ car to disembark. The gunmen disarmed the two officers, got into the vehicles and fled. The officer in the third car said he did not fire his gun to stop the smugglers as there were people nearby. Later on Monday night, police caught one of the gunmen, a 35-year-old Iraqi. The second gunman, also an Iraqi, was arrested in Aspropyrgos yesterday. The smugglers’ truck was found abandoned in Perama. Police believe that the two Iraqis are high-ranking members of a cross-border smuggling ring.