Chennai: Five men who
allegedly robbed two banks were shot dead in a residential area
here in a midnight gunbattle that also left two policemen wounded,
police said Thursday.
Human rights activists have, however demanded a probe monitored by
the Madras High Court into the killings.
Police swooped on an apartment in Velachery in south Chennai soon
after being tipped off that one of the bank robbers was holed up
there, Police Commissioner J.K. Tripathy told reporters here.
A gunfight broke out, leading to the death of Vinod Kumar, Vinay
Prasad, Harish Kumar and Chandrika Ray, all from Bihar, and Abhay
Kumar from West Bengal.
The men, 30-35 years old, were living in Chennai claiming to be
students, police said.
The injured policemen - identified as P. Ravi and Christian
Jayasil - have been admitted to the Royapettah Hospital.
Tripathy said police seized five pistols, two revolvers, ID and
SIM cards as well as Rs.14 lakh in cash from the apartment.
"We do not have any early history of the five. They would have
escaped today," he said. "We will protect the identity of the
After two bank robberies at gunpoint here since January, police
had formed 45 teams to track down the criminals.
A Bank of Baroda branch was robbed of Rs.19 lakh at gunpoint Jan
23. And this week, in a similar operation, gunmen walked away with
Rs.14 lakh from an Indian Overseas Bank in the city.
Tripathy said police meticulously went through 400 hours of CCTV
footage gathered from various bank branches.
After one of the suspects was identified, his identify was
verified from a bank employee.
The footage was then flashed on television, and police promised to
reward anyone who could lead them to the robbers.
This led to the tip that sparked off the midnight crackdown.
The gang members had taken the apartment on a monthly rent of
Rs.5,000 in December.
Human rights activists are not buying the police story, saying
there were no major bullet marks at the crime scene.
"The Madras High Court should take suo motto notice of this and
monitor the further probe so that the true facts about the
killings come to light," Henri Tiphagne, executive director,
People's Watch, told IANS.
Advocate Naga Shaila of People's Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL)
said policemen should not become trigger happy.