Just in one week, another bank has been robbed in the city.
The Rizvia branch of Faysal bank became the latest casualty on Tuesday, when Rs5.1 million was looted in broad daylight bringing the toll this year to at least 13.
Counter-terrorism officials believe that a major terrorist network is behind the latest looting spree and they express the fear that more banks may be robbed in the coming days.
Rizvia SHO Irfan Haider said that a First Information Report was lodged by late Tuesday evening against five unidentified armed men dressed in shalwar kameez. They were so brazen that they did not even cover their faces during the dacoity. “The men, armed with TT pistols, knew the premises inside out and according to witness accounts including three customers, the robbers were only interested in the cash and made no attempt to take anything from the clients,” said Haider.
The men arrived at the bank at 9:25am, collected Rs5.1 million in a ‘calm manner’ in their bags and walked out along with the CCTV footage within 25 minutes.
“The guards posted at the bank put up no resistance whatsoever and followed the instructions of the men, which included the threat that if anyone dared to look up, they would be shot in the face,” said SP Noman Siddiqi.
For Haider and Siddiqi, the strange part was not the robbery itself, but the fact that such a huge amount of cash was lying at the bank branch. “Bank employees say that despite the fact that Saturday was off, they had attended office, but did not move the cash to their central office according to normal procedure,” said Haider. When asked whether the employees themselves were being treated as suspects along with the guards, Siddiqi said: “At this point of our investigation, everyone is a suspect.”
Criminal Investigation Agency SSP Raja Umer Khattab said that vital clues picked up so far indicate that last five major dacoities in the city “definitely had a jihadi link.”
He was referring to the robbery at HBL on Rashid Minhas Road on October 19 when similarly unidentified men dressed in shalwar kameez had stolen Rs2.3 million. On the day, a remote-controlled 32kg explosive device was also discovered outside Meezan bank in Gulistan-e-Jauhar.
Also on October 6, seven men had looted Rs4.5 million from another bank in North Nazimabad. The news of yet another robbery was met with dismay. Shirazzuddin Aziz, who heads the Pakistan Bankers Association, said that there was a dire need to update security.
The banks needed to do it at their end and law enforcement agencies needed to improve surveillance. “Although it is a small start, I know of at least two large banks out of a total of 34, who have begun to install a remote recording system within their corporation that records footage from security cameras outside the bank premises,” he said, adding that such a system would help investigators even if the footage and recording equipment is taken away by the robbers.
A senior official at the Crime Investigation Department said that he believed that the notorious militant group ‘Jundullah’ was behind the recent cases. Counter-terrorism officials say there are at least 10 cases in which groups have been found to be involved in bank robberies.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 26th, 2011.
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