Cops walked into a Maraisburg store to buy food, unaware of a robbery in progress, and ended up rescuing workers from gunmen who had assaulted and held them at gunpoint.

The men allegedly started shooting at the police, who returned fire. By the time it was all over, one of the gunmen had been shot and was being taken to hospital under police guard, while the other four were arrested.

One of the people working at the Casablanca mini market, Jafor Hossain on Monday that he was asleep in a back room and was woken up by a gun to his head. The gunman was standing over him, shoving him as he lay on the bed.

A second man stood close to the door. He too was armed.

Hossain, 23, recalled the man’s words: “Don’t scream, don’t talk, I will shoot you if you do.”

Forced out of bed and into the shop, Hossain was thrown onto the floor face-down as the men ransacked the store, taking money, airtime, condoms and cigarettes.

“They kept asking: ‘Where is the money and where are all the boxes of cigarettes?’ I told him the boss had taken most of the money already but there was still some in the till behind the counter and that the cigarettes there were the only ones we had. He wouldn’t listen,” he said.

“Two of the men had guns. They tied our legs and feet together with wire and stole our cellphones,” Hossain said.

Minutes later, two police officers, who come to the store often to buy food, walked in, unaware there was a robbery in progress.

“I couldn’t see properly, but the men started shooting at the police, who shot back. Soon more police came and shot the one man in his arm. The men threw their guns on the ground. I’m so lucky to be alive,” Hossain said.

Naim, who had been manning the store while the Hossain brothers slept, said the five men had come in looking like customers.

“The one showed me his gun; they wanted all the money and cigarettes. I had to go on the floor and they were kicking me and hitting me,” he said. “We were all very scared, we thought it was the end.”

As more police arrived on the scene, they disarmed the men and arrested them.

Four of the alleged robbers were lying on their tummies, handcuffed, as police searched them.

Police spokesperson Captain Mavela Masondo confirmed that the fifth suspect had been transported to hospital under police guard and the men arrested were aged 40 and 50. “We recovered two firearms, and a case of armed robbery and possession of unlicensed firearms has been opened,” he said.