Two armed robbers stole EDVARD MUNCH's masterpiece THE SCREAM in front of stunned visitors at the Munch Museum in Norway earlier today (22AUG04).

Horrified art lovers were terrified when the two masked men threatened staff with guns and snatched the famous painting, as well as Munch's Madonna canvas off the walls, before leaving the Oslo museum.

The thieves escaped in a waiting car - possibly an AUDI - which was found abandoned later on, along with parts of picture frames.

The Munch Museum said the two paintings were worth an estimated $19 million (GBP10.5 million) together.

Norwegian Culture Minister VALGERD SVARSTAD HAUGLAND described the theft as "dreadful and shocking".

She adds, "We have not protected our cultural treasures adequately. We must learn the lessons."

The museum's press officer JORUNN CHRISTOFFERSON says, "When the thieves threaten the guards with a gun there is not much to be done. They were more concerned with the security of the visitors."

22/08/2004 21:21