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Gone in six minutes

Published Feb 17, 2011

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Six minutes. R400 000. And not a shot fired. This is the time it took a group of heavily armed gunmen to hold up staff at a Pretoria petrol station, blow up an FNB ATM and escape.

The daring robbery, carried out by five men with balaclavas, took place during the early hours of Wednesday at the Total Quagga Road petrol station.

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The attack was one of two which took place in Gauteng during the early on Wednesday, with ATM bombers blowing up an Absa cash machine in Tembisa moments after the Kwaggasrand bombing.

The attacks bring the number of ATMs blown up in Gauteng in the past month to five.

The gang which carried out the Pretoria West bombing are, according to police, believed to be new to the ATM bombing scene and are thought to be from Atteridgeville.

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Wielding semi-automatic assault rifles and handguns, CCTV footage from the garage’s security cameras shows the gunmen arriving in a white Toyota Corolla.

Leaping from the vehicle, several of the gunmen surround a delivery bakkie parked in front of a cashiers’ office, while others run towards a room in which petrol attendants are sitting. As a gunman, armed with what is thought to be an R-5, orders the cashier from his booth, two others run to the ATM.

With a crowbar they break open a portion of the cash machine and plant a commercial explosives bomb before running and taking cover behind their car.

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As the bomb explodes and pieces of debris fly everywhere, the bombers run back to the destroyed cash machine.

While several take up defensive positions near the garage’s Quagga Road entrance others climb into the ATM appearing moments later carrying large bundles of money. Within moments of them getting the cash, they are seen driving off, leaving behind startled staff and two delivery men.

Garage manager Shazim Suliman said it was clear from the CCTV footage that the gang was professional. “You can see each of them has a task. They are all wearing gloves and balaclavas, so none of them can be identified. Their getaway car does not have a number plate so the vehicle cannot be traced. They did not fire a shot so there is no ballistics evidence.

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“They were quick, so unbelievably quick. It is truly amazing to watch and you can see that they knew exactly what they were doing,” he said.

Suliman, who arrived on the scene shortly after the alarm was raised, said he could not believe the extent of the destruction.

“The ATM was completely destroyed. They knew exactly how much explosives to use to get to the safe without destroying it. It is frightening that this can happen so easily and that these people can get away,” he said.

A source involved in the investigation said it was estimated that the bombers had escaped with about R400 000 in cash.

Police said the men had escaped with undisclosed amount. “All the men were armed, some of them with semi-automatic assault rifles,” Warrant Officer Wanda Olivier said.

She said that detectives were working flat out to trace the bombers whom they hoped to arrest shortly.

Anyone with information on the identity or whereabouts of the bombers or those involved in the Tembisa bombing, who also escaped with an undisclosed amount of cash, can contact Crime Stop on 08600 10111. - Pretoria News

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