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Bank set ablaze, 20 trapped

Lucknow, May 22: Robbers locked up around 20 employees and customers in an Agra bank and set it on fire in an apparent bid to destroy CCTV evidence, trapping them in the inferno.

Nine of the 14 employees at the Vijaya Bank branch in the Agra Cantonment area are in serious condition after being rescued along with their colleagues and around six customers by residents who had to break open the gates. Four fire engines took two hours to control the blaze.

“We suspect they (the robbers) set it on fire to wipe out the CCTV images. The fire has destroyed virtually everything in the bank,” Agra police chief Salabh Mathur said.

Bank officials said the gang of six had cleaned out Rs 20-25 lakh from the branch, located near an army base and around 10km from the Taj Mahal.

“This kind of dacoity is unheard of. I think it is possible only when there is no fear of the law,” Agra BJP MP Ramashankar Kateria said, blaming the Samajwadi government of Uttar Pradesh for lack of security.

A hunt is on for the six based on accounts of witnesses. They struck around 3pm, when the crowd at the branch is usually thin because of the scorching heat, and escaped with ease. The police suspect the group had done a recce.