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'The Scream' stolen from museum

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'The Scream' stolen from museum


OSLO, Norway (AP) -- Armed men stormed into an art museum Sunday, threatened staff at gunpoint and stole Edvard Munch's famous paintings "The Scream" and "Madonna" before the eyes of stunned museum-goers.

The thieves yanked the paintings off the walls of Oslo's Munch museum and loaded them into a waiting car outside, said a witness, French radio producer Francois Castang.

Police spokeswoman Hilde Walsoe said the two or three armed men threatened a museum employee with a handgun to give them the two paintings, including "The Scream" -- Munch's famed depiction of an anguished figure with its head in its hands.

"No one has been physically injured, and the suspects escaped in an Audi A6. We are searching for the suspects with all available means," Walsoe told The Associated Press.

Many museum visitors panicked and thought they were being attacked by terrorists.

"He was wearing a black face mask and something that looked like a gun to force a female security guard down on the floor," visitor Marketa Cajova told NTB public radio.

"What's strange is that in this museum, there weren't any means of protection for the paintings, no alarm bell," Castang told France Inter radio.

"The paintings were simply attached by wire to the walls," he said. "All you had to do is pull on the painting hard for the cord to break loose -- which is what I saw one of the thieves doing."

Castang said police arrived on the scene 15 minutes later. Visitors were ushered into the museum's cafeteria.

"We don't have all the details on the situation, but we are searching for the suspects in the air and on land," Police Spokesman Kjell Moerk told the public radio network NRK.

It was the second time in 10 years that "The Scream" has been stolen.

In February 1994, the work was taken and remained missing for nearly three months. Police ultimately recovered the work, which is on fragile paper, undamaged in a hotel in Asgardstrand, about 40 miles south of the capital, Oslo. Three Norwegians were arrested.

At the time, investigators said the trio tried to ransom the painting, demanding $1 million from the government. It was never paid.

Munch, a Norwegian painter and graphic artist who worked in Germany as well as his home country, developed an emotionally charged style that was of great importance in the birth of the 20th century Expressionist movement.

He painted "The Scream" in 1893, as part of his "Frieze of Life" series, in which sickness, death, anxiety, and love are central themes. He died in 1944 at the age of 81.

The National Art Museum owns 58 paintings by Munch.

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