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Intruders escape before police raid

The special unit from Bern city police shortly before going into action Keystone

Three armed intruders are on the run after escaping before police intervention at the Spanish consulate in the Swiss capital, Bern.

This content was published on February 7, 2005 - 19:13

An elite unit stormed the building early on Monday afternoon after the incident began at about 8am.

Consulate staff were unharmed but a security guard was injured and had to be taken to hospital. Earlier reports spoke of hostage-taking but the motive is still unclear.

An elite police unit forced its way into the building in the city's diplomatic quarter shortly after 1.35pm.

The assault came after the intruders, who were believed to be carrying knives and a firearm, refused to give themselves up.

"We don't know whether [the incident] was politically-motivated or simply a criminal act," a police spokesman commented.

Security forces, including army soldiers, were deployed around the consulate. Several buildings in the area were evacuated.

One person managed to escape from the building shortly after the intruders entered the consulate just before 8am. Police freed two other people.

Spanish reports

Earlier, the Spanish foreign ministry said two consulate staffers had been taken hostage but they were not hurt.

"Apparently, judging from the information we have received, from the outset the three assailants wanted to get at the safe," ministry spokesman Angel Vazquez told Spanish national radio.

"This makes one think their goal was money, but this is just speculation. It will take some time for us to establish with certainty the exact nature of this act."

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

At about 8am, a police patrol found an injured man in the diplomatic area of Bern.
Police found out that hostages were being taken at the Spanish consulate.
The motive is not yet known.
Security forces surrounded the building.
An elite police unit stormed the building shortly after 1.30pm.

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In brief

Earlier incidents at diplomatic missions:

February 16, 1999: Kurdish militants occupied Greek representative offices in Zurich and Muri near Bern, as well as the headquarters of Geneva's Social Democratic Party, taking several hostages.

December 14, 1988: Six unarmed Iranian opponents took four hostages at Iran's consulate in Geneva.

July 12, 1988: Kurds occupying Germany's honorary consulate in Basel took two persons hostage.

September 6, 1982: An armed commando occupied the Polish embassy in Bern, taking 13 people hostage.

February 14, 1955: Six Romanian communist opponents occupied their country's embassy in Bern, after killing the caretaker.

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