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Cape Town -

ATM bombers operate after midnight and typically use assault rifles to protect themselves while placing explosives in cash machines.

The profile of ATM bombers in the province is explained in the Western Cape police’s annual report, discussed in the Provincial Legislature on Tuesday.

The report is for the period April 1, 2012 to March 31 last year. It is the first time details shedding light on who is generally behind the blasts and how they operate have been released by the police in the province.

The report said in that in the year ending on March 31 last year, 22 ATM bombings were recorded in the Western Cape. Nine had happened in the Nyanga area and four in the Paarl area.

The report said various groups responsible for the crimes were identified and this had led to 14 arrests and the confiscation of explosives and unlicensed firearms.

“Individuals within the identified groups are suspected to have links with individuals that have access to the components making up the explosive devices,” the report said. The explosive devices recovered had been analysed.

“It was established that the components of the explosive devices used, originate from the gold or platinum mining sector in Gauteng, North West and/or Free State provinces,” the report said.

It said suspects were men and operated in groups of between three and six.

In March 2012 an Absa cash machine outside the De Tyger Kwikspar in Parow was blasted and men with AK-47s had fired armour-piercing bullets at those who had arrived on the scene first. The annual report said suspects concealed their identities by wearing balaclavas or masks.

“The vast majority of cases were perpetrated between 1.30am and 4am, when very few people are around, minimising the risk of the suspects being detected and/or disturbed by unwitting members of the public or law enforcement agencies,” it said.

In one of the latest ATM incidents in the province, two ATMs were damaged by explosives at Brackenfell’s Glengarry Shopping Centre in late November. However, police believed an anti-ATM bombing device which resulted in money being dyed blue had prevented the suspects from getting away with cash.

Previously provincial police commissioner Arno Lamoer told the Cape Times that police officers in the Western Cape were working with officers from Gauteng, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal to try to prevent ATM bombings and make arrests.

Others areas where ATMs were previously targeted included Goodwood, Ottery and Parow.

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Cape Times