Robbers hit churches

2009-12-12 00:00

CHURCHES and temples in Durban are increasing their security after becoming soft targets for criminals robbing worshippers.

Guests at weddings are also being attacked by robbers.

During the past week, armed robbers have attacked two churches and an ashram (Hindu temple), holding worshippers at gunpoint before making off with valuables.

In one incident a gang struck at a wedding in Newlands West and robbed the bride and groom of jewellery, cellphones and cash.

Six armed men burst into the Ebenezer Celebration Centre hall in Hillgrove Drive and held guests at gunpoint, demanding jewellery, cash and cellphones — and even the groom’s wedding ring.

In Verulam, the gang struck at the Divine Life Society ashram, where 30 devotees were holding their evening prayer service.

Prem Balaram from Reaction Unit South Africa, a Verulam security company, said four armed men entered the ashram premises just after 7 pm on Friday evening, assaulted three private security guards outside and then cut through a metal security gate.

“The men held the devotees at gunpoint and demanded money and jewellery. They also took the keys for several vehicles,” he said.

A Mercedes Benz and Toyota Corolla were stolen. None of the devotees was injured. The Mercedes Benz was later recovered.

On Tuesday, parishioners at the Blessed Liberat church in Hilldale Drive, Newlands West, were held at gunpoint and robbed of valuables and a Honda Jazz car. There are now plans to hire guards to monitor the church premises during services.

Balaram said the ashram robbery has left the community in shock. Reaction Unit South Africa has fielded several calls from temples, churches and schools that want more security.

“People are terrified of this gang. They have asked for more patrols and guards,” he said.

He believes that the same gang robbed the churches in Newlands West and said that criminals know that robbing people while they are inside religious places is easy.

Police spokesman Superintendent Vincent Mdunge said police are investigating and hope to make arrests soon.

He said Police Commissioner Bheki Cele has formed a special technical response team of 170 members who will tackle serious crime in KwaZulu-Natal.

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