Police killed 18 people in a shootout in northeastern South Africa’s Limpopo province on Friday, and police said they targeted suspects who wanted to attack a cash-carrying vehicle.
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“As soon as the police approached, the group of suspects started shooting and the police returned fire. South African police said in a statement that 16 men and two women died instantly.
Fanny Masimula, the police commissioner in Makhado, Limpopo province, some 430 km northeast of Johannesburg, told reporters that one policeman was “very seriously injured”.
She added that the shooting continued for an hour and a half.
According to the police, who had been following the suspects’ movements for several days, an investigation was opened in January with the assistance of the intelligence services.
“Our goal was to stop them before they committed their crime,” she said.
Last year, 10 suspects were killed trying to seize cash after they shot at a police helicopter, injuring the pilot, prompting a police response.
In May, Police Minister Becky Seeley reported a 20% increase in attacks on cash vehicles, with 64 cases recorded during the first three months of the year.
Crime statistics, which the minister provides live on television every quarter, have risen in recent months in a country with one of the highest crime rates in the world.