Sixteen men and two women suspected of being part of a gang that robbed armoured vans were killed Friday in a shootout with South African police in a rural northern region.
Officers approached a building where the gang was operating, and the suspects opened fire, which they returned, according to local police.
“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,” informed Fannie Masemola, South Africa National Police Commissioner.
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.