“ATM explosions can kill more than a hundred meters away”

“ATM explosions can kill more than a hundred meters away”
“ATM explosions can kill more than a hundred meters away”

The series of ATM bomb attacks continues. How do these explosives work? What are the risks? What are the countermeasures? Answers with an expert.

After Laufen (BL) on June 2, Le Locle (NE) on June 6, it is the turn of Jegenstorf (BE) and Küssnacht (SZ), to suffer the attacks of thugs this Monday, June 10. The target: the village ATM and the method: explosives. Why do criminals choose this modus operandi, what are the risks and what are the solutions? Jacques Demierre, specialist in explosives and former member of the Vaud police, enlightens us.

Is blowing up an ATM an effective method for criminals?
Jacques Demierre: So yes, the method is extremely effective for criminals, because it is very fast, otherwise they would not take so many risks.

There is no possibility of breaking these machines, they must be destroyed?
Having worked for around ten years with the police in this area, I do not wish to provide too many details on this subject, but I will tell you that the use of explosives has become regular because criminals have adapted to new technologies of machine safety. You have to imagine that the first attacks on ATMs were carried out with gas. The thugs mixed two gases in the machine, set it on fire and it exploded. Subsequently, dispenser manufacturers implemented countermeasures and criminals began using explosives.

“It’s a perpetual technological race. Banks find solutions and criminals adapt”

Without going into compositional details, what do the explosives used in these attacks look like?
These explosives look like playdough. Contrary to what you imagine, these are not sticks of dynamite, they are much smaller.

Witnesses to the attack on the postomat in Le Locle said they heard three explosions. Did the criminals have to try several times to tear the machine apart?
It is not my role to comment on this particular matter, but I can tell you that one explosion is enough to open the machine.

What are the risks during these ATM explosions?
The risks are enormous. It’s a miracle no one was hurt.

“One day there will be absolute drama”

You have to imagine that these are explosives which are shattering, they project fragments with incredible kinetic energy.

Is there also a risk for criminals who use this method?
Yes, absolutely, you have to be a “pro” to avoid getting injured. When it jumps, you don’t want to be too close. You must not be in the axis of the blast of the explosion, what we call the blast and of course, you must avoid the fragments of the explosion.

“Projected metal elements can be fatal several hundred meters away”

It must also be said that the explosives used in most ATM attacks are very dangerous; they are not civilian materials, but military ones.

The federal police recommended not installing vending machines in inhabited buildings because of the risks for residents, what are they exactly and what do you think?
The risk that the building could suffer is fire. After the explosion, I am thinking in particular of wooden buildings, elements of the building can ignite and create a fire.

“However, there is no risk of the building collapsing following the explosion”

I think these recommendations are entirely justified.

Fedpol explained to Watson that there was a risk of finding undetonated explosives at the scene, could they explode afterwards?
No. The main danger lies in the toxicity of explosives. Criminals wear gloves not to leave traces of DNA and fingerprints, but also to protect themselves from the toxicity of the materials used. The risk is that after the explosion, a child or an animal absorbs these materials, it is extremely toxic.

Let’s talk about criminals now, as a former police officer, what is your view on this method which according to you is very risky?
I would say that these people are not afraid of anything. Exploding ATMs and doing it three times in the case of Le Locle is a huge risk.

“These people are not afraid of being arrested, they are determined”

I think that the fear of being arrested is not important enough in relation to the act.

You are also a security consultant for private companies. Do you think that one of the solutions would be technological, i.e. the shielding of machines for example?
Yes, but that’s only part of the answer. As I told you previously, the criminals adapt to the measures put in place.

“If the machine is armored or more reinforced, criminals will use larger loads”

We also need to see this risk.

And is the system which allows the projection of ink which stains the banknotes effective?
I’m not going to go into details, but a more efficient way should be developed, because every system has a flaw. What worries me the most is the location of the distributors, especially those installed in inhabited buildings as mentioned earlier. The solutions exist, but they are multifactorial.

“The strengthening of borders, the location of machines, the technologies for defiling banknotes, and even the penalties incurred by criminals must be questioned.”

What I can tell you is that the thugs are opportunistic, they weigh their interests and do not attack ATMs with explosives in Switzerland by chance.

No miracle solution then?
No, I don’t believe it. ATMs will remain a target for criminals; what is important today is to dissuade them from using explosives before a tragedy occurs.

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