The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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2.5 crore in 45 mins
- Dacoits hold staff at gunpoint and loot

Bhubaneswar/Jamshedpur, March 23: A gang of armed dacoits looted about Rs 2.5 crore from the Barbil branch of Bank of Baroda in Keonjhar district today.

According to bank sources, about nine dacoits disguised as customers entered the bank around 10.10 am, as soon as it opened for the day, and overpowered the solitary security guard at the gate.

While a couple of them stood at the gate keeping a watch, the rest brandished guns and asked the customers and staff to sit down without raising an alarm. When some tried to put up a resistance, they were roughed up.

“The gang had snatched cellphones of the staff and the customers. Soon, two of the robbers took me and another officer, S. Bhattacharya, to the strongroom and demanded that we open the cash vault. We tried to buy time by telling them the key was with the head cashier, who hadn’t come in by then. But the head cashier entered meanwhile and we had no option but to open the vault,” P.K. Panda, the branch manager told The Telegraph. The entire operation lasted around 45 minutes.

Before leaving, the manager added, the dacoits locked all the staff and customers. They were rescued by the security guard of the ATM downstairs.

Sources said the Barbil police station was located barely 200 yards away from the bank. Yet, the police only came to know after the bank management apprised them.

The police reached the spot with scientific team and dog squad in tow. It recovered a bag containing some cash just outside the bank, possibly left behind by the robbers.

Dilip Basani, a customer to have gone through the ordeal, said the dacoits were all in their 20s and 30s and were mostly conversing in Hindi. “We suspect they might be from Jharkhand and have alerted the authorities there. The border has been sealed,” Keonjhar SP Ghanshyam Upadhya said.

Deputy inspector-general of Kolhan in Jharkhand, Ram Lakhan Prasad, confirmed that the border was sealed.

Intelligence sources did not rule out a Maoist role in the incident. “The sophistication with which worked suggests that there might be a Naxalite hand,” a source said.

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