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Gang of five flees after bank heist

Durgapur, April 19: A gang of five robbers cleared out Rs 7.4 lakh from the Benachity branch of the United Bank of India at Durgapur in a 15-minute hold-up this morning before sheathing their weapons and melting away in the rush-hour crowd on the roads.

The branch was closed for the day after the robbery. “We had no cash to operate. Besides, the police carried out a spot investigation throughout the day,” said a bank official.

Police said the robbers, armed with revolvers and choppers, struck at 10.15 am, 15 minutes after the bank had opened. Altogether 27 persons, including 16 employees, were present in the bank.

“Customers were depositing cheques and drafts. The goons entered the bank posing as clients. I suddenly saw a youth pointing a revolver at me,” said Asish Chatterjee, a bank employee.

“At first, I thought it was a toy weapon and tried to stand up. But I got nervous when he threatened me with dire consequences if I did not show him the strong room. By then the other gangsters had appeared in the scene and surrounded all the employees and customers,” he recalled.

One of the dacoits trained a gun on deputy manager Shima Mandal and led her to the strong room, where the crooks asked for the key. As it was not in her possession, they turned their attention on head cashier Uday Chatterjee.

“As Chatterjee refused to oblige, one of the goons hit him with the butt of his revolver. After snatching the key, the robbers opened the strong room and looted the entire cash. They kept all the bundles in two gunny bags and walked out,” said an employee.

“As soon as they left, we came out on the crowded road and started shouting. But they managed to flee.”

“The miscreants were communicating in Hindi and English. Guns were pointed at us and none of us was in a position to resist them,” said Pranabendra Banerjee, who was caught in the hold-up when he came to open an account.

Durgapur additional superintendent of police Ajay Ranade said raids were being conducted in the district and its neighbourhood but they haven’t been able to trap any of the dacoits.

“We have alerted the neighbouring districts. All outlets from Burdwan district have been sealed. Extensive raids are on to track down the culprits.”

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