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I have this sentence as part of a question in my JLPT practise book:

スリのグループがボスの合図{あいず}で乗客{じょうきゃく}から金{かね}を盗{ぬす}むのを目{ま}の当{あ}たりにして恐{おそ}ろしかった。

Part of the sentence means, "the pickpocket group steals money from the passengers from the signal given by the boss," and part of the sentence means "being face to face is scary."

I presume it's the boss's eyes that are scary, but I can't make this sentence come together.

What would be the best translation for this sentence? What is the underlying structure that binds it together?

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    According to Space ALC (eow.alc.co.jp/…) 目の当たりにして means "to witness", so it'd probably mean "to witness a group of pickpockets steal money from passengers at the signal given by their boss was frightening." – user797 Nov 10 '11 at 5:42
  • Should it read "スリー" there by any chance? – Rudy the Reindeer Nov 10 '11 at 7:14
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    @Matt: The book doesn't say スリー, it says スリ. I assume it's 掏摸{すり}, "pickpocket". – Questioner Nov 10 '11 at 8:46
  • @DaveMG: Oh! Of course! – Rudy the Reindeer Nov 10 '11 at 8:49
  • @Matt: yes, スリ(掏摸) is pickpocket. スリー is "three". – istrasci Nov 10 '11 at 15:14
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The sentence has the following structure

Xを目の当りにして恐ろしかった。

Which translates literally as

I saw X and I was scared.

The X in your example sentence is what is called a noun phrase. The sentence translates as

I saw how a group of pickpockets stole money from a passenger at the sign of their boss and I was scared.

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    @DaveMG: Thanks, I corrected it. I think pickpocket is right. – Rudy the Reindeer Nov 10 '11 at 8:50

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