The Daily Star
Bank heists rock hills

Bank heists rock hills

It was around 12:30pm. Bandarban's Thanchi Bazar was abuzz with people as it was the weekly haat yesterday. Out of nowhere, three chander garis (human hauliers) arrived there carrying dozens of armed men clad in tactical gear. There, they joined an armed group that was already in the market area, according to witnesses. Divided in two groups, the men stormed two branches of Sonali Bank and Krishi Bank, located within about 10 feet, near Thanchi High School, brandishing weapons and asking people not to move. Inside the banks, some of the gang members started looking for the managers, while others started looting money from the cash counters. Within about 20 minutes, and made off with around Tk 17 lakh from the two banks, according to officials and customers. The daring robbery took place less than 16 hours after a robbery incident at the Sonali Bank branch in Bandarban's Ruma where the robbers kidnapped the branch manager. Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said Kuki Chin, an armed group of the Hill Tracts, was involved in the robberies. "Kuki Chin was involved in the bank robbery and firearms looting. They also hit police constables, bank guards and ansar members," he told journalists at his ministry office later in the day. However, more detailed information is not yet available, he said. *THE ROBBERIES* Sonali and Krishi banks are situated at the heart of the upazila, and both police and BGB have camps within 100 meters of the two banks in Thanchi Bazar. The bazaar is almost always crowded as it is also used to park CNG-run autorickshaws, human hauliers and bikes. Hai Mong Marma, a teacher at Thanchi Government Primary School, was inside the Sonali Bank when the robbery happened. "Some 15 armed men barged into the bank and asked everyone to hold their hands up at gunpoint while they emptied the cash counter and filled sacks," he said. Another client of the bank, preferring anonymity, said the gang entered the bank and swiftly took everyone hostage. "They confiscated all belongings and locked us in a room before fleeing." Members of the gang also took positions at different points of the bazar to deal with any possible threat, witnesses said. They said the area turned empty after the robbers opened blank fires as customers and traders ran for their life keeping their shops open. Aongsing Marma, a local, said the armed men arrived at the market in three vehicles from the south side, namely TNT Para, Chandak and Saizan Bom Para. The group members who were already in the market area then brandished weapons and asked everyone to remain silent and close their shops. After the robbery, the armed group started firing blank shots, creating panic. They left the area in four human hauliers that drove towards TNT, Chandak, and Sahjanpara. Osman Gani, deputy manager of Sonali Bank's Bandarban district, said their branch offices in six upazilas, except for the one in the district headquarters, have been temporarily closed down after the incident. He added that the branches will reopen after normalcy returns. Thanchi Upazila Nirbahi Officer Mohammad Mamun said, "We have heard that the group looted Tk 15 lakh from Sonali Bank and Tk 2 lakh from Krishi Bank." The robbers could not break open the vaults, he added. He said they apprehend that the robbery was committed by the same group that attacked the Sonali Bank branch in Ruma the previous day. Shah Mujahid Uddin, deputy commissioner of Bandarban district, said they are working to rescue the abducted bank manager alive and maintain the law and order in the area. "The operation against the group is ongoing, and BGB and police are working there," he added. Inspector General of Police Chowdhury Abdullah Al-Mamun said firm action will be taken against anyone involved in the robberies.
Published on: 2024-04-03 20:17:25.724019 +0200 CEST