India

BBC goes inside India bank robbers' tunnel

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Media captionThe tunnel used by the robbers is not very big, reports Sanjoy Majumder

It could be a scene straight out of the Hollywood blockbuster, Oceans Eleven.

Gohana is a small, nondescript town in the northern Indian state of Haryana, some three hours drive from the national capital, Delhi.

Inside an abandoned building, just off the town's high street, there's a room full of freshly dug earth.

In one corner, there's a hole no more than a few feet in diameter which leads to a tunnel that was used by thieves to enter the local branch of a bank next door.

"It was a very sophisticated operation," police superintendent Arun Singh tells me.

"It took them more than a month to dig the tunnel - they would dig for four to five hours every day to avoid detection."

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Image caption Police say the tunnel originated in an empty house nearby

Using the light from my mobile phone, I dropped into the tunnel. It's quite a tight space - just a few feet in height and I had to crawl on my hands and knees to move forward.

That's how the men, who planned and executed this sensational heist, made their way through this 100-foot tunnel, under the street and into the main vault of the bank next door.

The bank is now closed and the manager had to open it to let us in.

The vault itself appears to be very secure, at least from the outside. Several keys are used to open the massive steel doors, then a second one beyond it before we enter it.

Inside, the other end of the tunnel is visible in a corner, now sealed by the authorities. And right above it are the safety deposit lockers.

Some eighty or ninety of them have been forced open, their locks still in place and are completely empty.

"They stole cash, jewellery and gold worth millions of rupees," Mr Singh said.

Outside the bank, angry customers are staging a sit-in protest.

"We want the bank manager sacked," says one. "We've lost all our valuables."

There's a sense of disbelief among all, even the police.

"I've never seen anything like this in my long career," says police superintendent Singh, shaking his head.

The sheer audacity of this daring heist has got everyone talking in Gohana but has also placed this town on the national map.

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