Switzerland casino is robbed by armed gang

The raiders are said to have escaped into France

Masked men have stormed a packed casino near the Swiss border city of Basel, making off with hundreds of thousands of francs (dollars), prosecutors say.

About 10 raiders pulled up at the Grand Casino in two cars just after 0400 (0200 GMT) and smashed their way in, brandishing machine-guns and pistols.

The French-speaking gang ordered the 600 guests and employees to the floor while they emptied registers.

The Grand Casino describes itself as the "Swiss Las Vegas" on its website.

Reports say they could not get into the strong room despite firing on the door.

Nobody was seriously injured in the robbery.

The gang escaped in their cars, described as silver Audis with French licence plates. Basel lies on the Swiss border with France and Germany.

Sunday's robbery has echoes of a raid on 6 March on a poker tournament at a hotel in central Berlin in which attackers armed with a pistol and a machete made off with 240,000 euros ($320,000) in jackpot money.

German authorities say they have arrested five suspects over that raid.

'Swiss Las Vegas'

The prosecutor's office in Basel said in a statement that, although several shots had been fired by the robbers, no-one was injured by them.

"However, several guests and a member of the security staff were slightly hurt after being hit and kicked by the offenders," it added.

When the gang pulled up at the casino, one smashed the door with a sledgehammer and others ran in carrying machine-guns and pistols.

After the robbery, they fled at high speed in their cars across the border to France along the Flughafenstrasse (airport road), the prosecutors said.

"How the offenders managed to leave Flughafenstrasse, which is in French territory, is a matter of investigations, which are being undertaken together with French authorities," they added.

"The hunt for the perpetrators has so far been unsuccessful."

Police were quoted as saying by the Associated Press news agency that a woman who accidentally drove between the two getaway cars, blocking the casino's exit, was pulled from her vehicle and beaten.

It was possible, they said, that the men fired a shot at another car during their escape.

Located three minutes from the EuroAirport Basel and five minutes from Basel city centre, the casino boasts more than 357 slot machines, 15 gambling tables, four bars and two restaurants.