Eighteen suspected robbers, including two women were shot dead during an exchange of fire with South African police in the Limpopo province.
National police commissioner General Fannie Masemola, who on Friday addressed a press conference at the crime scene in Makhado in South Africa’s northernmost province, said the suspects were planning a cash-in-transit (CIT) heist.
Officers approached a building where the gang was operating, and the suspects opened fire, which they returned, according to local police.
One police officer was critically injured.
“Our officers together with the Special Task Force, PCI (Priority Crime Investigation), Crime Intelligence (Division), TRT (Tactical Response Team) intercepted them at the residence and that’s when they started firing at law enforcement officers.
“The shootout started at around 1pm this afternoon and the police returned fire. The shooting lasted about an hour and a half. It was a war. When it finally ended, we found that 16 men and 2 women had been killed,” Fannie Masemola said.
The gang was suspected of robbing armoured vans used for carrying cash from banks and had been under surveillance for days.
Four other suspects were arrested at a separate location.
“Our officers are still working with crime scene forensics. But at least 7 rifles were found so far. We will know more about the number of guns found after our officers are done working on the scene. We can say that bombs that are used in CIT (Cash-In-Transit) crimes were also found.
“Some of them were found placed in strategic areas of the residence to avoid them going off accidentally,” added the National Police Commissioner.
Cash-in-transit heists are a common and often violent crime in South Africa, and the criminals who pull them off are usually heavily armed.
He accused them of being responsible for similar crimes in other provinces.
“We do believe this syndicate has been involved in a number of CITs in this province, Mpumalanga and Gauteng,” Masemola said.