Two convicted thieves escape Athens prison by helicopter

The daring escape of two robbers from a high-security prison in Athens by helicopter - for the second time in less than three years - has rattled the Greek government, which has proceeded to dismiss three Justice Ministry officials. Vassilis Paleokostas, 42, and Alket Rizaj, 34, were picked up by a helicopter that flew over the courtyard of Athens' Korydallos prison on Sunday afternoon. The inmates climbed a rope ladder thrown to them by a woman passenger, the Ministry of Justice said. Guards on the ground opened fire and the woman fired back with an automatic rifle, authorities said. No injuries were reported. Police announced that the helicopter, found abandoned near a highway north of Athens, was struck by a bullet which hit its fuel tank and that fuel had been leaking. Paleokostas and Rizaj escaped from the same prison in the same manner only three years ago.