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French Official: Faulty Alarm Enabled Art Theft from Paris Museum


French authorities say a faulty security system enabled the brazen theft of valuable paintings from the Paris Museum of Modern Art Thursday.

Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe said Friday part of the alarm system has been malfunctioning for weeks and is still awaiting repair. The three guards patrolling the museum at night did not hear the burglar entering the building.

Officials say the intruder entered by breaking off a gate padlock and breaking a window. He fled with five choice paintings, including works by Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse.

The total value of the stolen art is estimated at more than $100 million.

Officials say a surveillance camera captured a masked intruder in the museum early Thursday. But the city's deputy culture secretary, Christophe Girard, says the heist appears to be a well-organized operation, possibly by a criminal gang.

Girard appealed to perpetrators to return the paintings undamaged.

The burglar took canvasses, leaving behind empty frames.

The missing works are Picasso's 1912 cubist Pigeon with Peas (Le pigeon aux petits-pois), Matisse's 1905 work Pastoral, Georges Braque's 20th-century Olive Tree near Estaque, Amedeo Modigliani's Woman.

France has seen a growing number of art thefts in recent months. A private collection of some 30 paintings, including works by Picasso and Henri Rousseau, was stolen from a house in southern France in January. A valuable pastel by French impressionist Edgar Degas was stolen from a museum in Marseilles at about the same time.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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