India police investigate 'great train robbery'

Indian police personnel stand guard alongside the Salem-Chennai Express train, which was robbed while in transit, at Egmore Railway station in Chennai on August 9, 2016. Some 50,000,000 INR, equivilent to approximately 749,000 USD, has been stolen from a moving train as it was being transported to the Reserve Bank of India, police said.
Image caption The thieves cut a hole into the roof of the train

Police in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu are investigating an unusual case of theft.

Thieves targeted a train carrying over 200 chests of used and damaged bank notes - cutting a hole in the roof of the train carriage and stealing 57.5m rupees ($860,000; £570,000).

Police are unsure whether the thieves had hid in the carriage or cut their way into the train while it was moving.

The theft was only discovered when the train reached its destination.

The news has been prominently covered by Indian media, with some calling it "the great train robbery".

Police say they believe that a group of six to eight robbers may have been involved in the heist, which took place between Monday night and Tuesday morning during the train's 350km-long (217 miles) journey from Salem town to Chennai (Madras).

The coach was carrying 3.4bn rupees ($51m) - and security personnel guarding the money were sat nearby, in the neighbouring compartment.

The notes belonged to India's central bank, Reserve Bank of India, and were on their way to Chennai to be destroyed.

But on arrival, when officials broke the seal on the carriage, they found chests broken open and a hole cut in the train's metal roof.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The theft was only discovered when the train reached its destination, Chennai
Image copyright AFP
Image caption The rest of the currency chests were removed from the train

"We are inquiring with the train guard and the police personnel if they heard any unusual noises on the roof," police superintendent P Vijayakumar told the AFP news agency.

Inspector General of Police, M Ramasubramani, told the news agency the thieves "created a manhole and then sneaked one after the other and lifted the bundles to the roof before taking them away."

The train is now stationed in Chennai as police continue to investigate the robbery.

Correspondents say the case raises questions about how security could have been breached on such a closely guarded train.

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