KARACHI, June 15: Armed robbers stormed into another private bank branch in Nazimabad on Friday and walked off with more than Rs4.5 million in a second consecutive heist in as many days.
Since the beginning of the year, the financial institutions in the city have lost more than Rs20 million in over half a dozen bank robberies.
The Nazimabad robbery of the Habib Bank Limited branch near Chawla Market not only appeared as a serious challenge for police investigators but also drew criticism from different circles over the performance of private security agencies.
The latest incident, the police said, left several questions unanswered that led to doubts about the role of two private security guards, who were later detained for interrogation.
“The CCTV footage showed that the armed men entered the branch a few minutes after 9am,” said Rizvia SHO Inspector Irfan Haider. “As we went through the footage, there were clear indications that the armed security guards did not offer the slightest resistance; instead they handed over guns even before they were asked to do so.”
The bandits then took the staff and a ‘few customers’ inside the branch hostage before moving to the cash counter, he said, adding that the episode took eight to nine minutes with no resistance from any side.
He quoted eyewitnesses as saying that ‘five armed youngsters’ were involved in the exercise.
“They looted a total of Rs4.584 million. We have registered an FIR (179/2012) under Sections 392 (punishment for robbery) and 34 (common intention) of the Pakistan Penal Code on a complaint of the branch manager,” added the SHO.
Though the officials remained tightlipped, sources in the police said the two private guards had been taken into custody by the Special Investigation Unit, which is mandated to probe heinous crimes from bank robberies to acts of terrorism, for further investigations.
Only a day ago, armed robbers had stormed into the Gulberg branch of a foreign bank branch, disarmed the on-duty security guards and held them hostage with the bank staff at gunpoint before walking off with more than two million rupees.
Earlier, on June 1, bandits took away Rs3.5 million from a bank branch in Defence Housing Authority and on May 14, Rs6.8 million was taken away in a heist in Naval Colony in Baldia Town.
The city has witnessed seven bank robberies this year though the investigators claimed to have ‘solved’ four such incidents with the arrest of suspects. During the course of investigation, they said, it emerged that multiple gangs were operating in Karachi with different objectives.
“There are obviously militants who execute robberies to fund their anti-state activities,” said SP Khurram Waris of the SIU. “Then there are purely professional robbers mainly belonging to the rural Sindh. They preferably target bank branches. Then there are small gangs of young bandits in the city who randomly look for such big opportunities.”
He said several suspects of each group had been arrested by the SIU during the past few months. He was optimistic about solving the remaining cases. But he strongly criticised the performance of private security companies which leave ‘several loopholes’, making bank heist an easy job.
“We’ve been observing their [robbers] method of working in each heist. Considering the past trends, it’s too early to suspect that any of the three types of gangs were behind the two fresh bank robberies. But we have reasons to believe that these were not the job of one particular group of bandits,” said the SP.