Police hunt Sharjah bank robbers

Two masked men raided a branch of Mashreq Bank in broad daylight before making off with Dh500,000, Sharjah Police says.

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SHARJAH // Two masked men raided a branch of Mashreq Bank in broad daylight, threatening a female employee with a knife before making off with Dh500,000 (US$136,000), Sharjah Police said. The robbery happened on Tuesday afternoon, just before 2pm, at a branch on Al Ittihad Road in Al Tawoon, police said yesterday. There were three women and two men working at the time, although the bank was clear of customers.

Police said the thieves had threatened the employees with a knife and a hammer as they demanded cash. Sharjah Police were not alerted to the robbery until five minutes after it began. Officers were dispatched immediately, but by the time they arrived the thieves had escaped. Employees were locked inside. "The delay of police reaching the crime scene was a result of confusion in the operation of the warning system," the police said in a statement. "The employees did not make the alarm early enough."

Police have questioned the five employees and other witnesses. By yesterday they had formed a special committee devoted to the case. Staff at the bank have been offered counselling, said Gavin Sanderson, head of distribution for Mashreq. He referred other questions to Sharjah Police. Several residents of the building in which the bank is located said police had interrogated them and that a security guard was being held.

Police would not confirm the residents' report, saying only that they were questioning several people in connection with the case. ykakande@thenational.ae