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Gunmen steal hundreds of thousands from Swiss casino

BASEL, Switzerland - A gang of masked gunmen raided a casino packed with about 600 guests early yesterday and made off with hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to Swiss prosecutors.

Prosecutors in Basel described a scene like an action-film heist: About 10 men dressed in black arrived in two cars at the Grand Casino near Basel shortly after 4 a.m.

One smashed the front door with a sledgehammer, and the others ran inside with machine guns and pistols, the prosecutors' statement said.

Speaking French, a group of men ordered the guests and employees to the floor, while their accomplices emptied registers in the basement and an upper floor, it said. They couldn't get into the strong room, despite shooting at the locked door, prosecutors said.

"The criminals fired a number of shots, but luckily no one was hit," said the statement.

It said some guests and one security guard were lightly injured from being hit or stepped on, and that Swiss and French police were trying to track down the men.

Swiss police said the men fled in two silver Audis with French license plates.

A woman who accidentally drove between the two getaway cars and blocked the casino's exit was pulled from her vehicle and beaten, police said. They said it was possible that the men fired a shot at another car during their high-speed escape.

The Grand Casino is a little more than 200 yards from Switzerland's border with France.

The robbery recalls a brazen raid March 6 on a poker tournament at a downtown hotel in Berlin. Attackers with a revolver and a machete made off with $320,000 in jackpot money. German authorities say they have arrested five suspects.

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