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A recent attempted armed robbery on a rural road in west-central Saskatchewan has struck fear into the hearts of farmers in the area, and some are now carrying firearms to protect themselves. It happened yesterday south of Fiske, Sask., about 146 kilometres southwest of Saskatoon.  “Yesterday was eventful,” said an area farmer, who sent CBC a photo of the hunting rifle he now keeps in the cab of his combine. The farmer requested to remain anonymous.

“I guarantee you everyone is carrying out here now.”

At around 11:40 a.m. CST RCMP were called about three unknown men with masked faces, wearing sunglasses who approached a worker from a local farm who was driving. The suspects approached the truck on foot. Each was carrying a handgun, according to the RCMP.

Rosetown shotgun

This photo from a Rosetown-area farmer shows an 870 Remington 12-gauge. The farmer told CBC News the shotgun doesn’t leave his side while on his property. (Submitted by Rosetown-area farmer)

The farmer is the farm worker’s employer. He said his employee has years of military experience in an Eastern European war zone and responded instinctively.

“He sees the gun, the face masks and balaclavas and he just accelerates and goes right at the guys in the middle of the road.”

The farmer said his farmhand did not try to hit the masked armed men, but he didn’t stop or slow down.

The fear, he told CBC, is related, not just to yesterday’s incident, but to what he describes as a rural crime spree in the area.

“There was an enormous amount of break and enters in the town of Rosetown and around the town of Rosetown over the weekend,” he said.

RCMP officers say they are looking into several farmers’ reports of property thefts in the area over the past few days, and will share more information with the public tomorrow morning.

Massive manhunt for suspects ongoing

Rosetown, Kindersley, Eston, Kerrobert, Biggar, Swift Current rural and North Battleford rural detachments as well as the Swift Current police and volunteers flying planes responded to yesterday’s attempted armed robbery and continue to search for the suspects and the black SUV.

Colin Bevan

Colin Bevan, owner of Kindersley Air Spray, flew over the area south of Fiske for the RCMP on Monday. (Colin Bevan)

“They asked if I’d be willing to help them in a search,” said Colin Bevan, who runs Kindersley Air Spray. He flew a crop duster over the area yesterday afternoon, to search for the black SUV.

“We seen one vehicle that looked very suspicious and suspect, and probably came down within 500 feet,” said Bevan. “As it turned out it was not the suspects’ vehicle, but it matched that description.”

‘Seems a bit surreal’

Schools in dozens of rural areas were placed on what police call “a hold and secure” state as a precaution yesterday.

More than half a dozen other farmers have sent CBC photos of the firearms they are now keeping in the cabs of their trucks and farm machinery. A number of farmers say it takes the RCMP between 30 minutes and a hour to reach them in an emergency.

Farmer gun west central Sask

The farmer who sent CBC this photo said he farms south of Rosetown. He and his wife both carry loaded firearms with them during harvest.

“Seems a little surreal,” said Bevan. “My question is, what were [the suspects] intending to do because there’s just not much out there.”

With three suspects still at large, he was not surprised farmers in west central Saskatchewan now feel leery as they harvest their crops.

“I think a lot of people are apprehensive and are taking measures to make sure they’re not caught off-guard or by surprise,” he said.

The RCMP are asking anyone with information about this incident to call their local RCMP detachment. They urge people not to directly approach the suspects, who may be armed.

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