Tip-off alerts cops to heist

Canaan Mdletshe

Two suspects of Automatic Teller Machines (ATM) bombing were shot yesterday morning in Imbali near Pietermaritzburg in a gun battle with police.

Members of the Durban organised crime unit received a tip-off from a member of the public about a possible robbery at an ATM in Imbali planned for yesterday morning.

Senior Superintendent Henry Budhram said that, acting on the tip, police kept watch at the ATM.

At about 2.30am they noticed some activity at the ATM at the Zimela Shopping Complex in Sinkwazi Road and shortly afterwards there was an explosion.

"Police sprung into action with the intention of arresting the men but were met with a hail of gunshots, forcing an exchange of fire with the suspects," Budhram said.

"In the ensuing gun battle, two of the suspects were fatally wounded. A third suspect was wounded."

Budhram said subsequent investigations established that a fourth suspect was also wounded in the exchange of fire, but fled the scene and was still at large.

"He contacted one of his accomplices at the scene on his cellphone and confirmed his injuries," Budhram said.

"Further investigation also established that the men had arrived in a car that had recently been reported hijacked in the Pinetown area of Durban."

No money was taken from the ATM but the machine was extensively damaged. Police believe that commercial explosives were used.

They confiscated an R5 rifle, two handguns and several live and expended cartridges.

The police attribute their success in arresting the men to the information they received from the public and thanked members of the community who assist them in the fight against crime.

"We urge the communities to continue supplying information to the police in order to ensure that the criminal elements within our communities are eradicated.

"There have been 13 ATM bombings in the province since December, but still police have no idea who is behind them," Budhram said.

"In the most recent attack, which took place two weeks ago at the Waterfall Shopping Centre in Hillcrest, a gang of six men used commercial explosives to blow up an ATM and made off with an undisclosed amount of cash."

Provincial commissioner Hamilton Ngidi commended the police for the arrest of the ATM bombers.

"ATM blasts endanger the lives of ordinary people.

"These criminals resist [arrest], shoot and kill our members, but yesterday they met their match," Ngidi said.