A man narrowly escaped death after he was doused in petrol during an armed robbery in Hopewell last night.Jaliil Ahmed (29) is recovering in hospital after being severely burned during an apparent attempted robbery where he is employed.Ahmed, who works as a shop assistant at a general dealer in the area, had petrol poured on him when four heavily armed men stormed the shop and demanded cash.Speaking to The Witness, his colleague, Shariff Fiidow, said the robbery happened at around 7 pm.“Three of us work in the shop and Ahmed is a cashier. At this point we are not sure if it was a robbery or a planned attack,” he said.Fiidow said four men walked in and pretended to be customers.“While three of them were walking around the shop, one went to the counter where Ahmed was sitting. Before we knew it they all produced firearms and started hurling insults and threats.”He said the robber who was standing next to the counter demanded that Ahmed open the door so he could come in. “He told him to open the door or he will shoot. Fearing for his life, Ahmed did as he was told.”Fiidow said the robber, who was also carrying a litre of petrol, got inside and threw it at Ahmed.“In the evening we usually have the heater on to keep warm. When the robber poured petrol on him, the heater was on. He caught alight and was burned.”He said after setting Ahmed alight the robbers got into a car that was parked outside the shop and drove off. They did not take anything from the shop.“He [Ahmed] was hysterical and ran out of the room to try and put the fire out. We helped him to take off his clothes but he was already burned. We all thought he was going to die.”Fiidow said the attack had left all of them shaken. “We are scared they might come back to intimidate us. We have been locked indoors all day because we feel unsafe.”Nor Ahmed, who also witnessed the incident, said he was shocked by the senseless attack.“Why would they want to burn another African brother like that? We hope the police arrest the perpetrators soon,” he said.A resident in the area, Mduduzi Mtolo, said he suspected that “it was a robbery that went wrong”.Pietermaritzburg police spokesperson Mthokozisi Ngobese confirmed the incident. Ngobese said a case of arson is being investigated.