Monday, November 9, 2009

According to local police, seven armed men were shot to death by South African police early on Sunday at the Protea Coin security group’s cash depot in Polokwane.

The men reportedly arrived at the cash depot shortly after midnight, and shot out the lights of the building’s main entrance and security cameras. They were reportedly dressed in balaclavas and gloves, and the burglar alarms had apparently been tampered with.

Petrus van Niekerk, from the Protea Coin group, said that security guards in another part of the building heard shots being fired, presumably as the intruders were blasting out the lights and security camera. “The police reacted in a flash,” he noted.

“The criminals, who were wearing balaclavas, were already inside and had tampered with the alarm when the police arrived. They also had cut a burglar window leading to the main vault. After realising that they were in trouble, the robbers started firing at the police,” said police spokesman Musa Zondi.

Police returned fire, killing all of the intruders, according to Zondi. He added that none of the police officers or any passerby were injured, and no money from the cash depot was stolen. Three firearms and burglar’s tools were later recovered.

Werner Vermaak, a spokesman for the ER24 ambulance company, said that paramedics, after arriving at the depot, had proclaimed all of the intruders dead at the scene, from gunshot wounds. “Seven people have been fatally wounded and no one else was injured in this incident,” he said, as quoted by Eyewitness News.

In an official statement, national chief of police Bheki Cele said that security officials had responded to a distress call. “Our SAPS [South African Police Service] members have prevailed yet again. They were ready to strike in the early morning hours. People often forget that it might just as well have been members of the police force who were shot and killed,” said he. “This is a warning. Anyone who attempts to challenge the police will lose.”

“With the festive season upon us, we are bound to see more people trying their luck. But we are ready ensure that our people are not held to ransom by criminals and violent thugs,” the police chief continued. He praised the police for what he called their “swift and efficient action”.

The Beeld newspaper, however, said that they received information that the police might have received a tip-off the night before the incident, in which a special task force was told to “get ready”.

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