UPDATE 3: HSBC attempted heist - Total 65 shots fired: 'shooters were professional' - Police

Thieves who sought to penetrate the vault at HSBC's headquarters in Qormi yesterday evening are believed to be well trained in use of hand weapons, to the extent that investigators are now focusing on the possibility that the thieves may have recieved military training.

Forensic investigators are reported to have established that a total of 65 shots were fired at the police who turned up on site and foiled the daring robbery from what is known to be one of Malta's most secure establishments, the HSBC Bank headquarters in Qormi.

The robbers had their sights on the bank's underground vaults that is thought to contain millions of euros.

Evidence collected from the scene of the crime and witness recounts on the events that unfolded, speak of professional movements by "men who definitely have military training" said a source, while adding that "they ducked, covered each other and shot with such rapidity that left no space for the police to react."

A Magnum pistol, known to be among the most powerful hand guns on the market was elevated from the crime scene by investigators.

While Police are also said to be looking into the robbers managed to gain electronic access into the first part of a highly secure part of HSBC's headquarters in Qormi, a number of HSBC Bank employees have been reported to be interrogated by the police, suggesting that the police believe that insider information must have been provided by the robbers.

Reliable sources have told MaltaToday that the robbers managed to enter the first security doors inside the building that leads to the vaults, that is understood to hold millions of euro's.

An SAG police officer who was on duty inside the building was held hostage for some time, before a mobile squad police car arrived on site and foiled the heist, prompting the robbers to abandon their plans and flee with their guns blazing.

More than 65 shots were fired as police ducked behind their vehicles and responded by emptying their magazines in a bid to stop the robbers from fleeing the site.

As a get away car arrived on site to pluck the accomplices, a police officer is said to have luckily escaped injury when shots were directed towards him, however his response shots smashed the windscreen of the getaway car and missed the driver by inches.

Last nights dramatic events were also witnessed by a number of children who happened to be in a music class just metres away from the incident.

MaltaToday is informed that the class was disrupted as shots rang out from across the road as mobile police officers came under fire from the bank robbers. From the window, the students saw the police duck behind their vehicle and respond to the firing, while a get-away car dangerously maneuvered to pull out the robbers from the area.

One of the students had the presence of mind to rush downstairs to shut a main door in a bid to protect his fellow students from facing the daunting prospect of finding themselves hostage should one of the robbers have tried to seek refuge inside another building. His effort was applauded by parents and students.

Meanwhile, forensic investigators have this morning returned to crime scene in a search for evidence that may point towards suspects.
Informed sources explained that a number of suspects have been rounded up during the night while others are being sought after this morning. Investigators are racing against time to test all suspects for gun shot residue (GSR).

Taking full advantage of the general absence of police on duty due to the State visit of the Italian President and the Isle of MTV event, three robbers armed with weapons and wearing false moustaches and wigs kept a police officer from the Special Assignment Unit hostage.

They did this after entering in the HSBC centre in Qormi dressed in suits at around 7.25pm. They then temporarily apprehended the SAG officer in the Bank.

The attempted bank hold up was witnessed by employees in the HSBC centre who managed to inform the police, who arrived on the scene. The arrival of a mobile unit police led to a fierce gun battle between the two sides as the robbers were about to leave the bank. In the exchange a police car was damaged by bullets and so was a private car and a showroom window. More than 17 shots were exchanged.

The robbers escaped from the scene with a KIA Sedona which was later found burnt in Mosta.  The area was closed off by the police. The authorities also dispatched air surveillance in an effort to track down the robbers who appear to have escaped from the burning KIA in a Peugeot.