JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – Five Zimbabweans were among 10 people arrested on Monday after South African police foiled a cash-in-transit robbery in Rosettenville, a neighbourhood of Johannesburg.
A police officer died from a gunshot wound while eight suspected robbers were killed during a shootout with law enforcement.
In a statement, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) said of the 10 people arrested, five were Zimbabweans, four South Africans and one Motswana.
The gang of heavily armed cash-in-transit robbers – suspected to have been as many as 25 –led police on a high-speed chase through Rosettenville, trading salvos of gunfire as they weaved through traffic in a dramatic face-off which left dead bodies littering the streets.
Police minister Bheki Cele said the suspects were armed with AK47s. The gang shot at a police helicopter, wounding the pilot and his assistant.
“About 100 bullets were found on the scene, as well as 12 rifles that were being used by criminals to shoot at the police,” IPID said in a statement.
Cele described the suspects as “heartless people who are prepared to kill”. They were using high-performance vehicles which had been hijacked.
The interception of the robbers was a culmination of police intelligence operation which spanned days, with undercover operatives surveilling the gang which, Gauteng police commissioner Elias Mawela said, had been planning to bomb an armoured cash van.
The high frequency of Zimbabweans involved in violent crime, mainly robberies, has fuelled anti-Zimbabwean sentiment in South Africa.