TT, Patna, March 6: Motorbike-borne gangsters killed three persons and looted Rs 60 lakh from outside a bank in a daring daylight heist today even as the Opposition was raising a ruckus in the legislative Houses over the state's law and order situation.
The incident occurred outside the Bagha Tila branch of Punjab National Bank (PNB) under Belachii police station in the Taal area of rural Patna around midday, when the bank was full with customers after the Sunday holiday.
Three criminals were waiting outside the bank, located around 80km southeast of Patna, and started firing indiscriminately soon after an SUV carrying the cash reached the branch, police said. One of the two security guards in the cash vehicle died on the spot of multiple gunshot wounds.
The other security guard and the driver were rushed to Barh Sadar hospital.
The guard died at the hospital and the driver died when he was being taken to Patna because the doctors at the Barh hospital had advised that he be treated at the Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH).
According to Belachii police sources, the security guards and the driver were delivering the cash from PNB's branch in Barh to the Bagha Tila branch.
The guards and the driver had collected the cash from the Barh branch and left for the Bagha Tila branch in a Bolero around 11.15am.
When the SUV reached the Bagha Tila branch and the security guards were busy taking out the box containing the cash, the three criminals fired indiscriminately at the vehicle.
"One guard, Suresh Kumar Rai, died on the spot," an officer at Belachii police station said under cover of anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media.
"The other guard, Yogeshwar Das, and driver Anant Kumar, who sustained serious injuries, were rushed to the Barh hospital. Yogeshwar died at the hospital.
"Anant, who was referred to PMCH for treatment, died on the way to Patna."
The criminals, after grabbing the cash box, also took away the gun of one of the security guards which they later discarded in a field. The police have recovered the gun.
After hearing the gunshots, some people and bank staff who were inside ran out towards the van, but could not gather the courage to chase the criminals who were armed with pistols.
Police sources said the needle of suspicion points to local criminals, as the gunmen seemed to have had prior information about the cash movement. The Taal area was once infamous for notorious activities.
"Apart from local criminals, the role of some persons from inside the bank cannot be ruled out as it seems the gunmen had prior information about when the cash would arrive at the Bagha Tila branch," a police officer said on the condition of anonymity.
"Police are conducting raids to nab the criminals," said Patna senior superintendent of police Manu Maharaaj, who rushed to the spot as soon as the news reached him. "The police have detained around half a dozen people for interrogation. Prima facie, it appears to be the handiwork of some local criminals."
The Opposition pounced on the incident as vindication of their charges of lawlessness in Bihar.
"The growing number of criminal incidents exposes the police and administration's weak grip over the law and order situation," alleged former state BJP president and MLC Mangal Pandey.
"A trader and his employee were killed in Hajipur yesterday while today three innocent people were killed and Rs 60 lakh cash was looted."
He said "jungle raj" had returned to the state, and vowed to raise the issue in the ongoing legislative session.
JDU MLC Neeraj Kumar said: "The Barh incident is a big challenge for the police administration and the government."
The ruling party lawmaker said the bank's role should also be probed - whether it had informed the local police that such a large amount of cash was being moved.