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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

'The Scream,' 'Madonna' Stolen From Oslo Museum

OSLO -- Edvard Munch's famous paintings "The Scream" and "Madonna" were stolen from an art museum Sunday while stunned museumgoers watched armed men threatening the staff at gunpoint as they took the artworks to a waiting car, police said.

"Two or three armed men threatened an employee with a handgun to give them 'The Scream' and 'Madonna,'" police spokeswoman Hilde Walsoe said. "No one has been physically injured, and the suspects escaped in an Audi A6. We are searching for the suspects with all available means."

Many visitors at the Munch Museum 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 the NTB news agency.

A French radio producer, Francois Castang, said he was visiting the Munch Museum in Oslo when thieves burst in and made off with the paintings, including the painter's depiction of an anguished figure with its head in its hands.

"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.

There are four versions of "The Scream." The Munch Museum had two of them, a private collector owns the third, and the fourth is on display at Oslo's National Gallery. That version was stolen in February 1994, but recovered three months later.

At the time, investigators said the trio tried to ransom the painting, demanding $1 million from the government. It was never paid. "Madonna" is an oil on canvas and is 90.5 centimeters by 70.5 centimeters. Munch painted it during 1894-95.

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.