Five police officers and a soldier have been shot dead in an attack on a police station in a small South African town on Wednesday, stealing quantities of weapons and a vehicle in what police were treating as a robbery.
Three officers were killed instantly when the armed robbers burst into the police station in Ngcobo, Umtata, and opened fire early this morning, according to a statement released by the South African Government News Agency.
Police do not yet know the motive for the attack. The suspects are known to have robbed a cash machine shortly before. They took 10 firearms and a police van from the station.
The off-duty soldier was shot as the assailants fled, taking two other officers hostage. Their bodies were found 6km (4 miles) down the road.
According to the government statement, both men had been shot “execution style”.
“This incident happened in the early hours of the morning when armed robbers, or what we suspect is armed robbers, entered the station, randomly opened fire on the police officers on duty,” police spokesman Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo told eNCA news channel.
The gunmen also shot a bystander who turned out to be a off-duty soldier as they fled in a stolen police vehicle, Naidoo said.
South Africa’s police minister, Fikile Mbalula, called the attack a national tragedy.
“The killing of our law enforcement officers robs us of dedicated servants of our people whose only sin was to serve and protect,” Mbalula said on Twitter.
General Khehla John Sitole, the National Commissioner of the South African Police Service, has vowed to find the killers, saying this morning he was “”appalled and deeply saddened by the cold and callous attack”.
We will not rest until we have tracked down these heartless killers and bring them to book.”