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Cape Town - Robbers destroyed an ATM at a Philippi petrol station early on Wednesday morning and fled with its contents – the second reported ATM bombing in the Peninsula this year.
A bank official at the scene – at the 24-hour Caltex petrol station in Old Strandfontein Road – said the robbers had made off with only a “handful” of cash because the safe holding the money was not facing the front of the ATM.
In January, an ATM in Gugulethu was bombed. No arrests were made in that incident.
Staff at the Caltex said the three robbers drove off in an Audi minutes before ADT security guards arrived at the scene, shortly after 2.30am on Wednesday.
Police forensic investigators and bank officials were combing the scene on Wednesday morning. Debris from the blast was strewn up to 20 metres away from the blast site. The petrol station reopened shortly after 9am.
Police spokesman Andrè Traut said no one was injured in the blast and no arrests had been made.
Staff at the petrol station said they were scared to work at night.
“We are scared to come out of our cubicle, because it is a dangerous area,” said petrol attendant Adam William.
He said that there had been three people on duty at the time of the bombing.
“But they just pushed the panic button and stayed inside. What else could they do?”
Thabo Ceba, another petrol attendant who was waiting for police to allow him on to the premises for his shift on Wednesday morning, said he no longer works after dark, after being shot in the face in an armed robbery in 2008.
The left half of his face is still paralysed.
Greg Barghus, who lives nearby, had just returned home from visiting his daughter in hospital when he heard the blast.
“The shockwaves caused alarms all through the neighbourhood to go off! I thought it may have been a big car crash, but when I jumped up to the window I saw the three guys running away,” he said.
By last December there had been 25 ATM bombings in the Western Cape.
South African Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric) spokesman Bongani Diako, said last year that while ATM bombings were down nationally, the Western Cape had seen a surge.
Diako added however that in spite of rising incidents locally, police were making progress with their investigations.
“The police, in collaboration with Sabric and other industry role-players, have been able to make numerous key arrests of perpetrators of ATM attacks in the country last year. We are confident these collaborative initiatives will continue to bear positive results,” he said.
Johan Burger, senior crime researcher at the Institute for Security Studies, was quoted last year as saying that robbers had changed their targets from cash-in-transit vehicles to ATMs because it was less risky and ATMs always had cash.
Burger had said many scenarios could be at play, including bombers coming from other provinces or a new syndicate having been formed.
Burger said only an expert would be able to ensure a controlled blast that did not blow up an ATM’s cash box.