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ROBOTS battle bunker-buster bank blast blaggers

Down-under bomb robbers in Perth ATM explosion rampage

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Aussies in the city of Perth have been left shaken by a wave of potentially deadly "bunker-buster" style terror explosions at ATMs as a crew of blaggers blast the machines open to rinse them of cash. Local cops, rattled by the devastating outrage rampage, have deployed police robots to battle the menace.

The tally of hole-in-the-wall blasts now stands at six, according to a recent ABC report, and the most powerful explosion reportedly "blew a hole in a wall and knocked down internal walls". Tin cops from the city bomb squad were used in each case to reconnoitre the scenes of the strikes ahead of the meatbag plods.

The aim of the deadly bombings seems simply to be that of emptying the targeted ATMs of readies.

"They've been successful in some and not so successful in others," a police spokesman told the Aussie broadcaster.

The report suggests that the cunning crims are not attaching such old-school mining or demolitions favourites as jelly or dynamite – still less harder-to-obtain military grade plastic explosives – to the targeted cash machines. Rather they seem to be using the fuel-air explosive method, in which a fuel (in this case apparently gas, but which can be almost anything that will burn including flour) is mixed with a volume of air to form an explosive mixture. Such methods are used in various kinds of military "bunker buster" weapons, so called as the strong pressure pulse from such an explosion is especially effective in collapsing dugouts, bunkers, buildings and similar fortifications.

Fuel-air explosions are also found in various other applications, for instance as a particularly uncompromising method of rodent control, in powerful bird-scaring/sonic-weapon equipment, and even in especially aggressive paintball guns.

According to the ABC, security video from one incident shows a perp attempting "to detonate gas injected into the ATM", indicating that the Perth bank robbers are seeking to turn the bank machines' own casings into the confining vessels for fuel-air blasts.

The down-under bomb blaggers seem to be more competent than many others who have sought to create improvised fuel-air explosions without benefit of military or other purpose-built technology. Even so their techniques don't seem to be infallible, with at least one of the gang apparently setting himself on fire during an attempt to open up an ATM.

The cops also consider that the gang's lack of expertise may lead to trouble, possibly in the form of them collapsing a building on themselves and/or members of the public. Inspector Bill Munnee of the Perth force appeared to imply that the bomb robbers have on occasion caused a fuel-air blast outside the targeted machine rather than inside it, devastating the surrounding building but leaving the ATM itself largely untouched. It may have been on such an occasion that the gangster mentioned above accidentally immolated himself.

"The structural damage and the damage to the ATM versus the actual structural building worries us because they don't seem to know exactly what they are doing," Munnee told the ABC. ®

Lewis Page used to be an armed-forces bomb disposal operator.

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