Kalashnikov-wielding robbers attacked the motorcade of a Saudi prince in Paris, on Sunday, making off with €250,000 ($335,000) in cash and reportedly stealing "sensitive" documents, French police said
The spectacular robbery took place in northern Paris late on Sunday evening as the motorcade was making its way from a plush hotel on the Champs Elysees to an airport in Le Bourget, said police, who confirmed there were no injuries.
A gang of "between five and eight" thieves in two BMWs hijacked the first of around 10 vehicles in the convoy, driving off with the three occupants before letting them go, police said.
The Saudis' Mercedes and one of the thieves' BMWs were later found abandoned and burned out in the village of Saint-Mesmes, to the northeast of Paris, approximately 40 kilometres (25 miles) from the scene of the crime.
Police found two 500 euro notes, documents in Arabic and medication near the burnt-out wrecks of the two cars.
According to the local daily Le Parisien, the robbers made off with "sensitive" diplomatic documents.
A source close to the investigation confirmed the theft of diplomatic documents but told AFP: "For the moment, we have no details about the nature of these documents. They could be sensitive documents but they could equally well be unimportant."
'The robbers were well-informed'
The Saudi embassy in Paris could not be immediately reached for comment.
"It's quite an unusual attack. They were obviously well-informed. It's true that it's quite a rare way of operating," one police source told AFP.
No suspects have yet been apprehended.
The head of a national police union, Nicolas Comte, said: "We need to find out what they were looking for, the money or the documents."
"I hope we will also have efficient cooperation with the Saudi authorities," he added.
The investigation has been turned over to the BRB special police unit in charge of armed robberies.
One source close to the investigation, who did not wish to be named, said: "If they were looking for sensitive documents, that changes the nature of the crime."
"It will no longer be an armed robbery, but something more complicated," the source added.
Initial results of the investigation have revealed that the robbers were obviously "aware of what they would find by attacking that specific car and not the others," he added.
'We're dealing with heavily armed criminals'
Frederic Lagache, from the Alliance police union, said: "We're dealing with a heavily armed and determined group of criminals."
"Once again, unfortunately, we see that these individuals had no fear of the police and were not concerned about the consequences of their actions."
The incident is not the first time a Saudi convoy has been targeted by robbers in Paris.
In July last year audacious thieves impersonated police officers to rob a senior official from the Saudi Ministry of Youth and Sport shortly after his arrival in the French capital. The robbers made off with €200,000 in cash.
The Saudi embassy has not commented on the latest robbery.
Sunday's attack is another incident that will put the spot light on the security and safety of visitors to the French capital, especially those from the wealthy Gulf states.
In a recent interview with The Local France Chiara Corazza, head of the Greater Paris Investment Agency said that security in the French capital was one of the biggest concerns of foreign investors in the city.