Research shows more ATM blasts in the offing

Sibongile Mashaba and Themba Molefe

Sibongile Mashaba and Themba Molefe

A chilling trend has emerged in which armed gangs of up to 30 robbers will stop at nothing to blow up ATMs countrywide.

Security experts have warned that more ATM bombings are in the offing as the robbers become more daring and violent.

Between January and March this year alone 142 attacks occurred compared with 368 for the whole of last year.

Even more ominous is the fact that the bombers were becoming more sophisticated, operating in syndicates and learning from each other's mistakes in cases where the police made arrests.

Johan Burger of the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) confirmed yesterday that a new pattern had surfaced and that the crime was on the rise.

He said: "ATMs have become soft targets, mainly because banks have intensified security at their buildings.

"In the past two to three people were involved in ATM attacks and the people involved targeted unprotected ATMs.

"Now they have taken it to the extreme. A large number of people are involved in attacks and they target protected machines.

"These people are now using violence against whoever tries to stop them."

Burger said the fact that the criminals were now using violence was worrying.

"They are prepared to use even more violence," Burger said. "This could be because the police have been successful in arresting perpetrators in the past.

"They are also changing methods that were used by the old syndicates, which made them fail in their operations."

Burger said the mines were major sources of the industrial explosives used in the attacks.

"Criminals have contacts in the mines who give them the explosives," Burger said.

"It appears they are well informed about using of explosives because there are fewer cases of robbers getting injured in the attacks than in the past."

Burger said ISS research showed that the figure would quadruple this year.