Heavily armed gangs terrorise city; outgun and outsmart police in series of attacks.
HEAVILY armed and well-organised gangs are wreaking terror on late-night shoppers and motorists across South Africa as they blow up hundreds of ATMs and make off with millions of rands.
In the most recent attacks, five robbers armed with semi-automatic assault rifles attacked shoppers, cashiers, petrol attendants and motorists as they blew up two Pretoria ATMs. The attacks bring the number of ATMS bombings in Pretoria this month to eight.
Monday night’s attacks, which security sources say brings the number of ATM blasts in South Africa in August alone to 38, saw gunmen stealing nearly R1 million.
ATM industry sources yesterday said the two blasts brought the number of ATMs destroyed in South Africa since April to 180, with an average of 40 being blown up every month.
Both attacks, which police believe were carried out by the same gang, took place in less than an hour.
In the first attack, just after 8pm, five men took less than 15 minutes to destroy an ATM at Kwaggasrand Motors Engen Garage in Pretoria West.
As police searched for clues to the robbers’ identities, the gunmen launched their second attack on an ATM at the Total Rosslyn Service Centre as customers inside the centre’s shop were being served by cashiers.
CCTV footage shows the gunmen storming the garage. As one rounds up the petrol attendants, two others charge into the shop holding up customers and staff.
Footage shows the gunmen planting explosives against the ATM before fleeing, leaving petrified customers and staff trapped inside the shop frantically seeking shelter behind counters and shelves before the explosion rips through the store.
The gunmen then ran back into the store past a dazed customer to fill bags and a box with money before they flee.
The attack – from the time the robbers arrive at the garage to the time they drive off – takes less than four minutes.
The attacks came two weeks after a soldier, who has allegedly been supplying a gang with weapons, was arrested in Soshanguve by North West police and security experts from an ATM company.
An ATM security source said the bombers were laying siege to the country and running circles around police.
“Although arrests are made it is a hit and miss affair with cops just getting lucky when they catch them. “These guys outgun the police. “They have a continuous supply of paramilitary weapons, such as AK-47s and explosives, which the police don’t seem to be able to stop.
“They also operate with military precision wherever and whenever they strike.
“It is clear the police and those in the banking industry don’t have a clue on how to combat this terror.
“If this had happened 20 years ago it would have been declared a national emergency,” he said.
Drastic action needed to be taken to stop the attacks, he said.
Robbers were attacking ATMs because it was relatively easy and safe to attack compared to cash-intransit vans or banks, the source said.
“It costs R1 000 on the black market to buy the explosives, detonators and fuses needed to destroy an ATM which can hold up to R750 000.
“On average, these bombers escape with up to R400 000 making it an extremely lucrative enterprise,” he said.
Information showed that 200 ATMs were blown up across South Africa since April with on average 40 attacks taking place every month, he said.
“Before April the attacks were under control, but since then it has been a free for all,” he said.
While the country’s banks declined to comment on how many of their ATMs had been destroyed, all agreed that they were facing a serious security crisis.
FNB spokesman Steve Higgins, whose company had an ATM blown up in Bloemfontein last week, said they are praying for a security breakthrough.
“Everyone is getting hit. Industry figures show a massive increase in attacks.
“We are hoping that police make a breakthrough so these attacks can be stopped,” he said.
Police spokesman Captain Matthews Nkoadi said no arrests had been made in connection with attacks, which saw the suspects escaping with a substantial amount of money. “We believe both attacks, carried out by five men driving a Silver Toyota RunX, are linked,” Nkoadi said. Source: www.pretorianews.co.za – 1 Sept 2010
ATM Bomber – Gang Profile
- Size: 5 to 15 members
- Age: 25 to 40
- Weapons and tools used: AK-47, R5, R4, pistols, blow torch, sledge hammer, pick-axe, commercial explosives.
- Cars driven during attack: BMW, Mercedes Benz, Audi, WV Golf5, Volvo
- Time to destroy an ATM and escape: 3 to 8 minutes
A Seven-man gang operating from Soshanguve – which is linked to nine attacks in the North West province – was caught between April and August. One of the members is a soldier who was allegedly supplying weapons to the gang.