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Last Updated: Saturday, 25 February 2006, 04:31 GMT
Monet stolen under carnival cover
A Samba dancer in Rio de Janeiro
The robbers disappeared among Carnival revellers
Gunmen have taken advantage of Brazil's carnival commotion to steal paintings by Picasso, Dali, Matisse and Monet from a Rio de Janeiro museum.

The thieves reportedly brandished a hand grenade to threaten security guards at the Chacara do Ceu museum.

They shut down the security cameras and then slipped away in a crowd of Samba revellers, said museum officials.

Police numbers have been increased in Rio as the five-day celebration officially got under way on Friday.

Disappeared

Pablo Picasso's The Dance, Salvador Dali's The Two Balconies, Henri Matisse's Luxembourg Gardens and Claude Monet's Marine were stolen.

The paintings were considered the museum's most valuable pieces but their exact value was not immediately available.

"They took advantage of a carnival parade passing by the museum and disappeared into the crowd," said museum director Vera de Alencar.

She said the robbery appeared to have been masterminded by specialists, probably from international gangs.

A number of tourists who were visiting the museum at the time were also mugged by the gang.

A nationwide alert has been issued by the federal police to try to prevent the artworks from leaving the country.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
See some of the celebrations at the Rio carnival



SEE ALSO:
Rei Momo opens Brazilian carnival
25 Feb 06 |  Americas


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