Bombers targeting ATMs in far-flung rural areas

FLASHBACK: ATM attack are becoming more brazen even though police say they are winning the war.
FLASHBACK: ATM attack are becoming more brazen even though police say they are winning the war.

Riot Hlatshwayo and Namhla Tshisela

Riot Hlatshwayo and Namhla Tshisela

ATM bombers are targeting far-flung areas for their brazen robberies. Mpumalanga has become a hotbed for these raids, with 50 machines having been destroyed to date.

At 1am on Saturday bombers broke the record in Bushbuckridge by blowing up four ATMs simultaneously and making off with more than R1million.

Ironically, the Mpumalanga police did not know the attack was in progress. The ATMs were situated in the Bushbuckridge Twin City complex about one kilometre from the Bushbuckridge police station.

"Why are there no sophisticated cameras that can record footage of suspected ATM bombers to prevent similar attacks?" asked one of the shoppers, Daimani Sgobela.

Police spokesman Superintendent Abie Khoabane told Sowetan he was not aware of the latest incident.

A source told Sowetan that one of the four machines contained more than R1 million.

"The R1 million cash was on standby for the other machines," the source said. "It was the most badly damaged. The criminals targeted it and this could mean it was an inside job."

The latest incident comes shortly after police claimed to be winning the war against ATM bombers after eight blasts were recorded last month.

"Our crime intelligence was sharp and by arresting the big fish behind the crime we broke the back of the syndicate," said national police spokesman Director Phuti Setati.

The police recently arrested four men after the discovery of explosives - enough to damage 1000 ATMs. According to the South African Banking Risk Information Centre eight ATMs were bombed in September compared with 58 in July. Gauteng leads the pack with more than 220 attacks to date out of 378.

Barbara Holtmann, head of the crime prevention research unit at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, said the challenge was for the police to stay ahead of the criminals.

"Criminals innovate new crime, so the challenge for police is to imagine what the next crime trend will be," she said.

lEight criminals, including two policemen, were arrested last week for bombings in Mpumalanga last month and in August.

lA Standard Bank ATM was blasted in Mthatha, Eastern Cape, last Tuesday.

lA Standard Bank ATM was bombed in Thokoza, Ekurhuleni, last month. The robbers fled with an undisclosed amount of money.

lRobbers shot at security guards in Islington village, Mpumalanga, before blasting an ATM last month.

In KZN, Muzi Majola, wanted for a spate of ATM bombings, was shot dead in a gun battle with police in Newcastle in August.

Vukani Zwane was shot dead earlier in August and was linked to six ATM bombings in KZN. In the same month, police arrested Nhlanhla Mhlongo allegedly behind four ATM bombings.