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      Fla. bank robbers strap bomb to abducted teller

      Police surrounded a Bank of America branch in Coral Gables, Fla., after a robber took hostages. / Google Maps

      CHRISTINE ARMARIO and TONY WINTON, Associated Press Writer

      CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) " A bank teller was kidnapped early Friday from his home by robbers who strapped a suspected bomb to his chest and used him to steal money from a Bank of America branch near the University of Miami, according to the FBI.

      The suspected explosive device was safely removed, and the shirtless teller was brought out of the bank shortly before noon. The FBI would not say whether it was a viable explosive but said it contained "bomb-making materials" that were being examined for evidence.

      Coral Gables police Chief Richard Naue said three men broke into the teller's home, holding him and his father hostage for several hours. Two of the men allegedly drove the teller to the bank, while the third held the man's father hostage. All three made a clean getaway.

      The alleged robbers never actually entered the bank. Naue said they sent the booby-trapped teller inside to retrieve an undisclosed amount of cash. The branch manager, who was the only other employee there before the bank opened, then called police.

      The robbers apparently relied on the teller's fear of a possible explosion and the potential danger to his father to ensure he would do their bidding inside the building.

      "It is an unusual event to have explosives strapped to a victim and sent in," said Dena Choucair, assistant special agent in charge of the FBI's Miami field office.

      There was nothing to link the robbery to others in the area, but investigators were pursuing all possible leads, Choucair said.

      Police did not immediately release the teller's name, or officially clear him of wrongdoing, though he was described as a victim.

      A major South Florida thoroughfare, U.S. 1, was closed for hours in both directions at the height of rush hour. Three local schools were on lockdown as a precaution and the University of Miami sent out a campus-wide alert warning students and staff to avoid the area, although classes continued as usual.

      The incident began early Friday with a home invasion at an apartment complex in the suburb of Kendall, where the bank teller lived, said FBI spokeswoman Judy Orihuela.

      The robbers allegedly fled in a stolen red 1998 Ford Mustang, license tag R958DY.

      Initial reports that there were hostages in the bank were unfounded, but the incident triggered a massive police response because of the possible explosive. Only the teller and the branch manager were inside the bank.

      Bank of America said in a statement that "the safety of our associates is our highest priority and Bank of America is working closely with law enforcement to assist in the situation."

      ____

      Associated Press writers Curt Anderson and Travis Reed contributed to this story.

      THIS WAS A STORY UPDATE. Earlier versions appear below.

      CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) " The FBI says robbers kidnapped a Miami-area bank employee, strapped a possible bomb to his chest and used him to steal money from the bank.

      FBI spokeswoman Judy Orihuela said a teller was abducted early Friday morning by three suspects and forced to help them rob a Bank of America branch in Coral Gables near the University of Miami. The teller was wearing a vest police believed was a bomb, although that is not yet confirmed.

      The teller later was brought out of the bank unharmed. Orihuela says the three suspects got away with an undetermined amount of cash.

      No other employees or customers were held hostage.

      The university sent an alert to students warning them to stay away from the area, and some local elementary schools have been locked down as a precaution.

      Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

      THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Read earlier story below.

      CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) " South Florida police say there's one person and possibly a bomb inside a bank near the University of Miami.

      However, police could not confirm whether there were any hostages inside the Bank of America in Coral Gables, as initially reported.

      Police Sgt. Janette Frevola says there is one person inside the bank, but investigators are not sure if that person is a victim or a suspect. She could not say whether the hostage negotiations team called to the scene still had contact with the person.

      According to a report by CBS4 in South Florida, the hostage situation began Thursday night when the robber or robbers invaded an unidentified bank employee's apartment and then brought the person to the bank in a red Ford Mustang.

      The Bank of America branch is near the University of Miami. The university sent an alert to students warning them to stay away from the area, and some local elementary schools have been locked down as a precaution.

      Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

      THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

      CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) " Police say a robber has taken an unknown number of hostages at a Bank of America near the University of Miami.

      Coral Gables police say some employees and customers were taken hostage Friday at the bank, but they don't know how many. Hostage negotiators are at the bank along with the FBI and the Miami-Dade County bomb squad.

      The university sent an alert to students warning them to stay away from the area near the bank.

      Some elementary schools in the area have been locked down as a precaution but the university remains open.

      Roads are closed in the area. The bank is near the southern end of Interstate 95, the highway that spans the East Coast from Maine to Florida.

      Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

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