‘Hell of a thunderclap’ as gang blows up two ATMs at Howick centre

2012-10-22 00:00

AN armed gang blew open two ATMs in Howick at the SuperSpar centre on Saturday night.

The gang of about 10 to 15 men struck “with military precision” during the heavy thunderstorm, Knight Force guards said yesterday morning.

The guards say the men arrived approximately at midnight and carried out their entire robbery in a matter of minutes,

Several of them assaulted the guard who was on duty on Saturday night, forcing him at gunpoint to lie on the ground while other members set up the explosives.

The men wired explosives to the ATM machines of First National Bank and ABSA, and blew them open. They then gathered the money inside the machines and drove off at normal speed.

Two ATM’s belonging to different banks were not blown open.

SuperSpar floor manager Wayne Struckmeyer said the blasts had caused some minor structural damage to the outside of the building, but nothing had been hugely affected.

He said the automated teller machines were a service to their clients, adding the risk was taken by the banks, not the store. “Our customers will be inconvenienced and it is a scary thing when it hits close to home.” Struckmeyer said.

A customer, who did not want to be named, said she had heard there was a spate of ATM bombings in KwaZulu-Natal and this was probably the work of a single gang. “My sister said an ATM was bombed last week in the South Coast and another one in Nottingham Road recently.”

South African Police declined to confirm how many ATM bombings had occurred in the past few weeks.

Knight Force guards said the gang were white men, who arrived in a van. They were dressed in balaclavas and were wearing black raincoats. They blocked the entrance to the SuperSpar parking area and then they went quickly to work.

“These men knew what they were doing, they were not scared of the CCTV, ” said one guard.

“They were professional.” The guards are not armed with guns and are trained to call for armed response when threatened.

Knight Force owner Gary Preston confirmed that one of his guards was on duty and was not seriously hurt during the incident.

“I don’t want to comment, it is up to the police to tell you the details,” he said.

On Saturday morning, the parking area was still littered with debris from the blasts and the area around the two ATM machines were cordoned off by police tape.

An old lady said: “I told my husband last night I heard one hell of a thunderclap, and he told me I was hearing things. But it must have been this bomb going off.”

Police recently claimed that ATM bombings were on the decline, but it seems this may not be true.

UNISA security management researcher Sarika Sewpersad said ATM bombers were most likely to be those who had worked in the cash-in-transit business.

She said they know which machines were the most vulnerable and also which locations were soft targets.

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