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Thieves steal Picasso, Dali, Matisse paintings

Gunmen overpowered guards at a Rio museum during Carnival
/ Source: The Associated Press

Gunmen overpowered security guards and stole paintings by Picasso, Dali, Matisse and Monet from a Rio museum on Friday, using the cover of a Carnival crowd to make their getaway, authorities said.

The thieves entered the Chacara do Ceu museum as a samba band performed on the street outside and stole Pablo Picasso’s “The Dance,” Salvador Dali’s “The Two Balconies,” Henri Matisse’s “Luxemburg Garden” and Claude Monet’s “Marine.”

The paintings were considered the most valuable pieces at the museum, but their exact value was not immediately available, said Thais Isel, a spokeswoman for Rio’s Public Safety Secretariat.

The four thieves reportedly used grenades to threaten security guards and people inside the museum, which was open at the time of the heist. Two tourists from Australia and a couple from New Zealand were among those held by the gunmen, the Globo Online Web site reported.

The gunmen forced the guards to shut down the museum’s security cameras, then fled while taking advantage of the huge crowd that was following the Carnival band.

Brazil’s federal police issued a countrywide alert to try to keep the paintings from leaving Brazil.

Carnival celebrations in Brazil officially began on Friday and continue until Tuesday.