Karachi: Another bank heist within a week
KARACHI: Six armed robbers on Friday morning stormed into a private bank branch in Malir, relieved the lone security guard of his gun and held the staff hostage at gunpoint before walking off with more than Rs4.5 million in a second such heist within a week, officials said.
The incident that lasted hardly seven minutes was the seventh bank robbery in the city this year, the police said, claiming to have traced and arrested suspects involved in four of the heists.
The investigators said they had reason to believe that the Malir branch of the United Bank Limited was struck by the same group that had looted the Gulshan-i-Iqbal branch of Askari Bank Limited last Saturday.
But unlikely the previous heist, this time the robbers took away the video recording system causing the police to rely mostly on the witness accounts of bank staff and a couple of clients for investigation.
“It was a little after 9am when two men entered the branch, situated along the main road near the Malir Tanki Market, and went to see the manager in his cubicle,” the bank staff was quoted as saying.
DSP Chaudary Tariq Saeed, the sub-divisional police officer of the area, quoted the manager as saying that the two youngsters initially showed an interest in investing over a million rupees and after a couple of minutes of discussion, pulled out pistols.
“Within a few seconds three more armed men stormed into the branch and snatched the shotgun from the only guard inside the branch,” he said. Two of them then moved to a counter and collected cash, while those in the manager’s cubicle took up positions and held the staff and two bank visitors hostage at gunpoint.
“The robbers collected a total of Rs4.58 million and threw the guard’s gun outside the branch before speeding away,” said DSP Saeed. A case (FIR 193/2011) was registered at the Saudabad police station under Sections 395 (punishment for robbery) and 34 (common intention) of the Pakistan Penal Code against unidentified suspects on a complaint of the branch manager.
While the investigators were yet to find a vital clue to the robbers, they suspected the involvement of the same group in both robberies of the week.
“We have shown the footage of the last week robbery to the bank staff to verify if the same group was involved in the two incidents,” said SP Raja Umer Khattab of the Special Investigation Unit (SIU), tasked with the bank heist probes.
He quoted the staff as saying that the robbers appeared to be same though their faces were not very clear in the footage.
Guard on leave
He said the bank usually had two security guards on duty but only one of them was there on Friday. It emerged during the course of investigation that his colleague was on sick leave.
“To verify the guard’s claim, the investigators visited his home and found him sick that removed suspicions about his role in the heist.”
It is worth noting here that the city witnessed 22 bank robberies last year during which the police authorities claimed to have solved 16 such cases by arresting more than a dozen suspects.
The police said multiple groups, including a few banned militant outfits, were found striking bank branches apparently to generate funds for their activities.