ATM bombers still at large

2012-04-23 00:00

THE police and the town’s mayor have urged Estcourt residents to remain calm and to co-operate with police after a brazen attack by an AK47-wielding gang on Friday morning.

The men, who sealed off the central business district before they struck with ATM bombings which were executed simultaneously, remain at large.

The bombings were carried out with military precision close to the town’s police station in the early hours of the morning.

Police spokesperson Captain Thulani Zwane confirmed yesterday that no arrests had been made.

“We don’t know how many people are involved in this and we are still busy with the investigation.

“We ask community members to come forward if they have any information in order to help with the investigation,” Zwane said.

A police insider said the men were armed with AK47 rifles and shot at any car that moved in their direction. They fled with an undisclosed sum of money.

Some residents of the Midlands town were left shaken

A husband and wife who live close to the targeted banks told The Witness they no longer felt safe.

“This is very scary because we live in town. I have four children and fear for their lives. This is traumatising,” said the husband, who asked to remain anonymous for safety reasons.

He and his family were scared something similar might happen again.

“This is not a petty crime and I am very worried because we live metres away from the scene.

“We can’t defend ourselves. If we were any closer we would have been badly hurt.There is too much crime in this area,” he added.

His wife, who also wanted to remain anonymous, said they were tired of feeling like victims.

Dave Allen of the Democratic Alliance echoed the family’s concerns: “I feel very nervous about what happened. This is a quiet town.”

The police were about 300 metres from the scene but were slow to act.

“I am not feeling as safe as I should right now. I want to know that if there is a problem the police are going to be there. I want to reach a point where I can have faith in them again,” Allen said.

Estcourt Mayor Bongani Dlamini expressed disappointment that the town had been targeted in this way, but urged community members to remain calm.

“I thought that this was one of the safest towns and didn’t know that such things still happen. We ask community members to remain calm and let the investigations take over. We know that this must have been a traumatic experience for everyone involved, especially the security guard who got injured,” Dlamini said.

Community Safety and Security Liaison spokesperson, Kwanele Ncalane, said he was optimistic that the people responsible for the crimes would be arrested.

“There is no need to the community to fear. We urge them to work with the police and get these people arrested. We have dealt with such cases before and have succeeded in dealing with them. This case will be dealt with thoroughly,” he said.

He urged community members to unite and to share any information they might have with the police.

“If the community is united there will be no trouble,” he added.

The manager of Umtshezi Municipality in Estcourt, Nonhlanhla Njoko, said Friday’s bombings were “completely unacceptable”.

“We need to increase security around town. We are working on putting up surveillance cameras,” she said.

Up to 15 men were involved in the crime, many carrying automatic weapons, according to eyewitnesses.

On Saturday, the Weekend Witness reported that the cameras broke down about two years ago and had not been fixed.

• Siyathemba.Ben@media24.com

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