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Indian envoy’s family robbed, briefly held hostage in South Africa’s Durban

The family of Consul General Shashank Vikram, including his five-year old son, domestic staff and a visiting teacher were reportedly held up during the armed intrusion at their residence in Durban.

world Updated: Nov 20, 2017 11:35 IST
Indo-Asian News Service, New Delhi
Indian envoy,Robbery,Armed robbery
India’s High Commissioner to South Africa Ruchira Kamboj (L) with Consul General Shashank Vikram.(Twitter/@RuchiraKamboj)

The government says it has taken up with authorities in South Africa the case of an armed robbery at the Indian Consul General’s residence in the city of Durban.

“Ensuring the safety and security of Indian diplomats/officials posted abroad, and their families is a matter of highest priority for us,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in a response to queries on Sunday.

He said “we have taken up the matter with relevant authorities, and investigations are currently ongoing”.

In a shocking case of security lapse, the home of Consul General Shashank Vikram was on Thursday robbed by eight armed men who held his five-year-old son at gunpoint.

According to the Independent Online, the envoy’s residence, India House, in the Morningside area of the city, was breached in the afternoon despite protection offered by the South African Police Services’ VIP Unit, a private guard company and armed response provider.

Armed response officers, who arrived 15 minutes after the alarm was activated, took away surveillance camera footage.

The robbers burst into the home around 4pm after overpowering and attacking a guard who had gone down to the driveway gate after apparently being summoned.

“Vikram’s wife, Megha Singh, and the couple’s two young children were home at the time and were subjected to a terrifying 10-minute ordeal during which their five-year-old son was held hostage as the robbers demanded money and gold,” it said.

“The little boy, who had been studying in the reception room with a tutor, was carried at gunpoint and ordered to deactivate the alarm that had been set off by the family’s domestic helper, who was beaten for her courageous act.”

The intruders ransacked the building, smashing open a thick, solid door with crowbars, the report said.

One grabbed the five-year-old and hauled him upstairs, where Singh and her 10-year-old son were watching television.

The envoy’s wife slammed the retractable security gate on the upstairs landing shut to call for help but the intruders forced open the gate with a crowbar all the while demanding jewellery and access to a non-existent safe.

Singh and her elder son ran to the main bedroom where she pressed the alarm and called her husband who was in a meeting at the town of uMhlanga north of Durban.

According to the report, Vikram rushed home before the security officers could reach the spot.

The robbers then fled taking a cellphone and a few small items, the Independent Online report said.

Durban is home to around 800,000 people of Indian origin.

Kumar said on Sunday that the intruders were expected to be arrested soon.

External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj has also spoken to Vikram and inquired about his family.

First Published: Nov 20, 2017 08:20 IST