11 November 2007

Why are gunmen attacking a nuclear facility in South Africa? WHO ARE THEY?

Gunmen storm high-security nuclear facility in South Africa
Published on Sunday, November 11, 2007.

Pelindaba Nuclear Research Center
An early morning attack by four gunmen who stormed and reached the emergency-response control room of a secured nuclear facility in South Africa has left one of the plant's operational officers hospitalized and officials with the country's nuclear agency threatening a newspaper with charges of violating national security laws for publishing an account of the intrusion.

The attack at the Pelindaba nuclear facility took place early Thursday morning, reported the Pretoria News.
According to Anton Gerber, an emergency services operational officer working for the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa, he was in the control room with his fiancée Ria Meiring, who is also the control room supervisor, when he heard a loud bang and saw the men coming into the facility's eastern block.

Gerber pushed Meiring beneath a desk for safety and attempted to stop the intruders from entering the electronically sealed control room. Two forced their way through the door and ran straight for the control panel.
"I did not know what they were going to do. I just kept on hitting them even when one of them attacked me with a screwdriver," Gerber said from his hospital bed. "I knew that if I stopped they would attack Ria or do something to the panel. I could not let anything like that happen."
Investigators at the Pelindaba plant believe the attackers gained access to the building by using a ladder belonging to the facility's fire department to scale a wall, then forced open a window by pulling out several louvers.

"The facility is meant to be safe. There are security guards, electric fences and security control points. These things are not meant to happen," Gerber said.

During the struggle, Gerber was shot in the chest by one of the attackers, the bullet narrowly missing his heart and spine but hitting his lung and breaking a rib.

A NESCA spokeswoman confirmed the attack but would not say how the intruders gained entry to one of the country's most secure sites or whether anything was taken in the attack. NESCA, she said, was conducting its own internal investigation and would publicize its findings after police finished their work.

Prior to publication, Pretoria News was contacted by a man identifying himself as a legal adviser to NESCA who warned the paper would be violating South Africa's National Keypoints Act and said the agency might obtain a court order to prevent publication.

A police spokesman told Pretoria News there had been no arrests in the attack. Reports make no mention of terrorism as a possible motive.
"A case of armed robbery and attempted murder are being investigated,"
the spokesman said.

The attack came a day after authorities arrested two men in connection with the murder of the general manager of NESCA during a carjacking earlier this year.

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