16 hours after robbery at Sonali Bank, armed robbers attack two more banks in Bandarban

Two vehicles full of armed men swarmed into a Krishi Bank and a Sonali Bank branch around 12:30pm on Wednesday

U She Thwai Marmabdnews24.com
Published : 3 April 2024, 07:56 AM
Updated : 3 April 2024, 07:56 AM

Sixteen hours after a Sonali Bank branch was robbed in Bandarban’s Ruma Upazila, armed robbers have attacked two more banks in Thanchi Upazila.

Two vehicles full of armed men swarmed into the neighbouring branches of the Bangladesh Krishi Bank and Sonali Bank in the Upazila around 12:30pm on Wednesday, said Krishi Bank branch Manager Hla Sui Thwai.

“In the blink of an eye, they entered and took everyone inside the bank hostage. They corralled everyone into a room and locked the door.”

The Krishi bank manager was unable to say whether they had looted money from the bank.

“We are not yet sure what they did inside the bank,” he said. “We’ll be able to say for sure once we look at everything.”

The bank manager said that the neighbouring branch of Sonali Bank had also been attacked. However, bdnews24.com was unable to get a statement from officials at the bank.

“We have received reports that a bank in Thanchi was attacked a short while ago,” said Bandarban Additional Superintendent of Police (Crime) Abdul Karim. “We believe the group from yesterday is responsible. There have been no developments regarding the investigation into yesterday’s incident.”

More than 100 men took part in the attack on the Sonali Bank branch in Ruma Upazila’s Sadar area around 9pm on Tuesday. At least 20 people, including officials and security personnel, were assaulted and the branch’s Manager Nezam Uddin was kidnapped.

Law enforcers believe members of the separatist hill tribal group Kuki-Chin National Front or KNF, better known as the Bawm Party, were involved in the attacks.

Following the incidents in Thanchi, a video circulated on social media, which was allegedly captured by locals during the time of the robbery.

bdnews24.com was unable to confirm the authenticity of the video.

In the video, people appear to be frantically running around as gunshots are heard in the background. Plenty of shops were shown drawing their shutters while people sought refuge in a room as panic spread across the market. Some were also seen trying to peek outside to evaluate the situation.

Later, the marketplace appeared empty, with a few shops left completely unattended.

People from law enforcement could also be seen in front of the bank following the robbery.

According to the locals, several armed robbers took position at different corners of the market during the heist.

A shop owner told bdnews24.com: "Hundreds of people entered the market in three jeeps around 12pm. One of the jeeps was stationed right in front of the bank while the people from the other two jeeps got down from the vehicles to rob the bank."

"They kept looking for the bank manager. But when they couldn't find him, they started taking money out of the cash box. All of them were wearing khaki clothes. We think they are members of the KNF," he added.

According to the shop owner, the armed robbers, including female gang members, opened fire to scare the locals before leaving the scene.

Another local told bdnews24.com: "For the last couple of days, we have been seeing a few people shooting for a film along the river banks of the Chandapara area. It never bothered us since we thought they were practising the scenes of a film. Later, after seeing the robbers firing at the market, we realised they were running surveillance for the robbery all along."

Following the robberies, the Inspector General of Police, Chowdhury Abdullah Al-Mamun, warned that firm action would be taken against anyone involved in the bank robbery at Bandarban's Ruma Upazila.

The IGP also went to the scene on Wednesday after a Sonali Bank branch in the Upazila was attacked and robbed on Tuesday night.

The chief of police spoke to the media afterwards. "I came to Bandarban to learn more about the shocking events of last night. We went to different locations. They attacked our people, they attacked the mosque, they attacked the Ansar camp. They then stole weapons."

After Tuesday night's incident, banks in Bandarban followed strict protocols to conduct all banking transactions with safety.

Sonali Bank's Bandarban District Manager, Rajan Kanti Das, told bdnews24.com: "Many banks have paused monetary transactions for security reasons after the robbery. We had to follow strict protocol after receiving orders from the district administration."

Army and police personnel have been deployed across the hill tracts to bolster security.