Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 5 August 2020

South Africa church attack: five dead after ‘hostage situation’ near Johannesburg

It was not clear how many people were rescued, but police confiscated more than 40 guns

Confiscated arms and ammunition, foreground, and arrested suspects, background, lay face-down at a church in Zuurbekom, near Johannesburg, Saturday, July 11, 2020. South African Police Services via AP
Confiscated arms and ammunition, foreground, and arrested suspects, background, lay face-down at a church in Zuurbekom, near Johannesburg, Saturday, July 11, 2020. South African Police Services via AP

Five people were dead and more than 40 were arrested after hostages were taken at a church near Johannesburg, South African police said on Saturday.

They said officers and troops who responded to reports of a shooting at the International Pentecostal Holiness Church Headquarters in Zuurbekom found four people “shot and burned to death in a car” and a security guard shot in another car. Six others were injured.

Police said they rescued men, women and children who had been held hostage and who appeared to have lived at the church.

It was not clear how many people were rescued. Police also confiscated more than 40 guns, local media reported.

Police in South Africa say five people are dead and more than 40 have been arrested after an early-morning hostage situation at a church near Johannesburg. South African Police Services via AP
Police in South Africa say five people are dead and more than 40 have been arrested after an early-morning hostage situation at a church near Johannesburg. South African Police Services via AP

The church, west of Johannesburg, is one of the largest and reportedly the richest in the country. Local media reported the hostage situation was related to an ongoing battle over control of the building.

Photos tweeted by the police showed more than a dozen men lying on the ground, subdued, along with rifles, pistols, boxes of ammunition – including at least one marked “law enforcement” – handheld radios, bolt cutters, a tyre iron and a baseball bat.

Among those arrested were members of the police, defence forces and correctional services.

Police spokesman Vishnu Naidoo told the eNCA television station: “Everything was in complete disarray, so we have arrested all those that we reasonably believe are suspects, we are busy interviewing and interrogating them to establish exactly what the motive was.”

Updated: July 12, 2020 04:12 PM

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