A large police operation including members of the EKAM special forces unit on Monday were continuing a search in northwestern Greece for the 26-year-old Albanian fugitive Ilir Koupa, hours after another escapee from Trikala Prison, Marian Kola, 36, was killed in an exchange of fire.
After finding a bulletproof vest and bag containing food about 600 meters from where Kola had died, authorities drafted in a coast guard helicopter with a thermal imaging camera to help them search for Koupa. Police are also seeking accomplices who may have harbored either Kola or Koupa.
Koupa is believed to have sought refuge in a forest close to the village of Kato Zalongo in the prefecture of Ioannina after eluding officers in thick fog following a shootout early Sunday that left Kola dead and a policeman with leg injuries.
As for Kola, police forensics experts are examining several weapons he had with him at the time of his death – a Kalashnikov assault rifle, a Glock handgun which he had stolen from a policeman during a shootout in Distomo, Viotia, in mid-June, and a homemade hand grenade.
Kola was one of 11 Albanian convicts who escaped from Trikala Prison in March. Five remain at large following the death of two of the fugitives, including Kola, in police shootouts and the arrest of four.
Since the escape, another two people have been killed: a police officer and a 25-year-old female motorist.
Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias said on Monday that between 580 and 750 policemen have been involved in the search since the March breakout.
Motorists have been advised to avoid the broader area around Zalongo, where an intensive police operation remains under way.