Bank robber flees with $500,000 in ex-Soviet Georgia

National & World News

A gunman with a weapon in hand, escorts three police officers, who surrendered themselves as hostages, out of the bank building in the town of Zugdidi in western Georgia, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. Authorities in the ex-Soviet republic of Georgia say an armed assailant has taken hostages at a bank. Local media reported that up to 19 hostages could be inside the bank. The Georgian Interior Ministry didn’t immediately comment on how many people were taken hostage Wednesday in the western town of Zugdidi or what demands their captor had made. (AP Photo/Zurab Tsertsvadze)

TBILISI, Georgia (AP) — Police in the ex-Soviet republic of Georgia were looking Thursday for a bank robber who held over 40 people hostage for hours before releasing them and escaping with $500,000 given to him by authorities.

An armed man took bank employees and customers hostage in the town of Zugdidi in western Georgia on Wednesday, demanding $500,000 in cash. After authorities provided him with the money and a car that he wanted, the assailant freed most of the hostages and drove away with three remaining captives.

The man freed them overnight in a forested area and disappeared.

Speaking during Thursday’s government meeting, Georgia’s prime minister, Giorgi Gakharia, urged police to quickly track the assailant down, adding that “there must be no illusion that a crime can go unpunished.”

Interior Minister Vakhtang Gomelauri told reporters that the assailant’s demands were fulfilled because “for our government and for me, the people’s lives are the most important.”

He said that it wasn’t immediately clear if the attacker had an accomplice among the hostages.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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