Durban - Pay up or face the fire. Extortion rather than terrorism could be the motive behind the placing of incendiary devices in Durban, according to a security expert.
Willem Els, an expert in crime scene handling and bomb disposal at the Institute for Security Studies, told The Independent on Saturday that if terrorists had been responsible, they would claim credit for such acts and ride on the media hype. “This has not happened,” he said.
Els said the type of targets had to be considered. While pipe bombs were detonated near cars parked in Greyville at the Vodacom Durban July, incendiary devices had been found at Woolworths, Spar and “apparently some small businesses”.
This “definitely points towards this direction that it might be extortion”, said Els.
Private investigator Brad Nathanson, who has been digging into the issue, said he too believed it was about extortion, not terrorism.
The most recent caused a shutdown in the city centre this week when one device was found in a Woolworths store.
They had previously been found in its Pavilion and Gateways stores.
Els stressed that his thoughts about extortion remained speculation, adding that very little information was available.
“There is not a lot of sharing of information from the police. They are scared it could jeopardise investigations.
“People want to be reassured that police are on top of it,” Els said.
“With ‘bombs’, there is always panic, fear and insecurity. If the public are not reassured, there will be that hype,” added Els.
He noted that it appeared this tactic of placing incendiary devices appeared to be restricted to Durban.
“Fortunately, it has not spread anywhere else.”
National police spokesperson Brigadier Vish Naidoo said the motive for the incendiary devices had yet to be established.
“It is an unconventional type of crime and we are dealing with it with an unconventional approach,” he said.
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Naidoo called for calm and urged people to refrain from making hoax calls, which had been particularly numerous during school holidays.
Woolworths also said the motive for the devices being placed in its shops remained unclear.
“The investigation is ongoing,” said spokesperson Kirsten Hewett.
“We can assure the public that we take these incidents in KZN extremely seriously and we are doing all that we can to ensure the safety of our people and our customers.”
In Parliament, chairperson of the portfolio committee on police Francois Beukman called for intensified intelligence gathering backed by proactive interventions to deal with the increasing number of hoax bomb threats, mainly in KwaZulu-Natal.
A parliamentary media release said the committee would invite the SAPS to give a detailed briefing on the bomb threats, as well as an update on various cases occurring in mosques across the country when Parliament resumed next month.
“The committee has called for speedy resolution of these cases,” it added.