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An attempted airport heist of $32 million in Chile leaves 2 people dead

Karin Pozo/Aton Chile via AP
Photographed through a fence, an armored truck is surrounded by police tape at the Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport in Santiago, Chile, on Wednesday. An airport shootout killed a security officer and an alleged robber in what authorities say was an attempted heist of more than $32 million in cash aboard a plane from Miami.

SANTIAGO, Chile — An airport shootout in Chile's capital killed a security officer and an alleged robber Wednesday in what authorities said was an attempted heist of more than $32 million in cash aboard a plane from Miami.

Around 10 heavily armed robbers were able to skirt security measures to reach the runway at the Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport, where a Latam airlines aircraft had $32.5 million in cash that was being transferred to an armored truck, Interior Subsecretary Manuel Monsalve said.

There was a shootout between the would-be robbers and security officials that killed an employee of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, or DGAC, as well as an alleged assailant.

The other robbers fled. Two burned vehicles were later found nearby.

"The brave action by the DGAC officials frustrated the robbery," Monsalve said, noting that the would-be robbers were "highly organized" and "very armed."

Video posted on social media appeared to show bullet holes in a Delta plane that was parked next to the Latam aircraft that was targeted. Another video appears to show a moment in the shootout during which a lot of gunshots can be heard.

"There was no risk to passengers," DGAC chief Raúl Jorquera said.

The attempted heist targeted the $32.5 million that were set to be transferred to an armored truck to then be distributed to several banks in the South American country.

The attempted robbery "will undoubtedly lead us to revise processes, protocols that must be improved ... it forces us to rethink many things," Jorquera said.

This was not the first time the airport in Chile's capital was targeted. In 2020, thieves stole some $15 million from a warehouse in the airport, six years after a similar $10 million heist.

President Gabriel Boric bemoaned the latest heist during a speech Wednesday in which he said that "when there's insecurity, everything else wobbles."

An increase in violent crime has contributed to a recent decline in Boric's approval ratings, according to polls.

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