Bhisho ATM bombers flee without loot

Eastern Cape Police have launched a manhunt for five heavily armed men who used explosives to blow up a row of First National Bank ATMs in Bhisho early yesterday.

The police explosives unit, better known as the bomb squad, arrived and evacuated the bank’s staff members, who had noticed the damaged automated teller machines at the Independence Road bank when they arrived at around 9am.

The botched robbery was caught on CCTV camera, which police are hoping will help identify the suspects.

The ATM bombers left empty-handed. A case of malicious damage to property was opened with the King William’s Town police after the gang left a trail destruction.

The bank was closed for several hours while a large contingent of police officers – including forensic experts, the intelligence unit, the organised crime unit and sniffer dogs – worked the scene searching for clues.

Police spokeswoman Captain Siphokazi Mawisa said the bombers were armed and highly dangerous.

“Experts established that they [the culprits] attempted to bomb the ATM but the exercise was not successful.”

The incident brought traffic to a near standstill and prompted police to lock down the area.

The bank employees were evacuated while the bomb squad secured the area, Mawisa said, adding that the attempted robbery was believed to have taken place at around 2am.

Evidence of what could be traces of an explosive device was taken from the debris by police forensic experts for investigation.

She said the unknown men had fled in a car.

She could not give the make or registration number of the car.

“We are viewing CCTV footage and what we could see is four men, and another shadow could be seen as well in the footage moments before an explosion happened.

“The footage is not clear. The damaged ATMs were noticed by employees of the bank when they reported for work in the morning.”

Police have called on members of the public to assist them in apprehending the suspects.

“We are seeking the support of anyone who might have any information that may lead to the arrest of the five men.”

“These are highly trained robbers who obviously know how to handle dangerous weapons and explosives.

“They are heavily armed, so we would like to appeal to members of the public not to try to apprehend them, but to immediately alert their nearest police station,” she said.

FNB could not be reached for comment at the time of writing.

The attempted robbery comes after a gang of 17 robbers cut an ATM out of a wall in Qumbu and fled in a hijacked bakkie in May.

In that event, police gave chase and exchanged fire with the robbers, who were armed with AK47 automatic rifles.

Police managed to recover the ATM as the robbers fled the scene.

No one was arrested. — malibongwed@dispatch.co.za

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