AFP - Three prisoners, among them one of Belgium's most dangerous criminals, escaped Thursday in an audacious jailbreak in broad daylight aboard a hijacked helicopter, the Justice Ministry said.
Two accomplices rented a helicopter, took the pilot hostage, and forced him to land in the courtyard of the jail, located in the northern city of Bruges, a ministry spokesperson told Belga news agency.
When the helicopter took off with the three convicts one of the accomplices stayed behind, possibly because of limited space aboard the helicopter, the spokesperson said.
"This accomplice is in any case guilty of hostage taking," the spokesperson added.
The escaped convicts and the accomplice were dropped off near a major road and the helicopter was abandoned at Aalter, on the outskirts of Bruges. The convicts then seized a vehicle from a nearby petrol pump, later switching cars and taking a female driver hostage before dropping her off at Melle in Flanders, according to the police.
The three escapees -- bank robber Ashraf Sekkaki, Mohammed Johry and Abdel Had Kahjary Mulloul -- are all repeat offenders, prosecutors in Bruges told Belga.
Sekkaki, 26, has been described as one of Belgium's most dangerous criminals, and was jailed for 10 years for a slew of crimes. He had escaped from a prison in the northern city of Turnhout in September 2003 and spent five months on the run before being captured by police.