A Royal Mile shop assistant was held at knifepoint by a masked gang of four “laughing” men in hard hats.
Aman Tariq, 21, thought the gang members were “joking” when they first demanded money at Canongate Stores – until they each pulled out seven-inch knives.
Terrified to speak for fear that the men – one believed to be only 16 – would slash him, he was helpless when two of them grabbed the till and a plastic money container, making off with £1500.
The gang – all of whom were wearing hard hats and dust masks – fled across the road and down Bull’s Close, before being lost to sight.
Police said they were pursuing a number of lines of inquiry relating to Wednesday’s incident.
Mr Tariq, who was about to cash up when the gang burst in at 6.40pm, said they shouted abuse at him while two cornered him behind the till, one jumped on the freezer and another stood in front of the counter.
“It was terrible, they were very dangerous,” said Mr Tariq. “They were laughing, I just thought they were joking to start with but they were blocking my way to get out. They all had knives in front of me.
“I didn’t want to argue because I thought they would try to kill me. It all happened in two minutes.”
Shop owner Kamran Atta, 34, called for CCTV to be installed outside the premises which he has run for 26 years.
He said: “This is not acceptable. We always felt we were safer because we are close to the parliament and palace.”
The suspects were all white and spoke with Scottish accents. The first was in his early 20s, 6ft tall and was wearing a high-visibility jacket with a silver hooded top underneath and grey cotton bottoms.
Two others were wearing hi-vis jackets – one had a hooded top while another, about 18 years old, was around 5ft 10in tall. The fourth suspect is believed to be around 16, approximately 5ft 4in and wearing a black hooded top.
Detective Constable Alison Wyllie said: “This was a terrifying ordeal for the shopkeeper, though, fortunately, he was not injured. The suspects were distinctively dressed and so anyone who recognises their description or who remembers seeing anything suspicious is urged to contact police.”