Five dead after ‘hostage situation’ in South African church

Five dead after 'hostage situation' in South African church
Police released images of suspects lying on the ground. Source: SAPS
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Daily US Times: At least five people have been killed after attackers stormed a South African church, reportedly amid an argument over its leadership.

South African police said they had rescued children, men, and women who were said to be living in the compound and being allegedly held hostage on the outskirts of Johannesburg on Saturday morning.

Police said they have seized dozens of weapons and arrested at least 40 people, including six people who have been taken to hospital.

The men who stormed the International Pentecostal Holiness Church were part of a splinter group, eyewitnesses say.

Since the former leader of the South African church died in 2016, it’s leadership has reportedly been the subject of infighting. South Africa’s IOL reports police had previously been called to the church following a shoot out between members in 2018.

According to The Sowetan newspaper, the church’s finances had come under the spotlight the year before, amid allegations some 110m rand ($6.5m; £5.2m) had gone missing.

Police were called to the church in Zuurbekom in the West Rand on Saturday at 03:00 local time (01:00 GMT).

A number of weapons have been recovered by police. Source: SAPS

A group of attackers indicated to those inside “that they were coming to take over the premises”, national police spokesperson Brigadier Vish Naidoo said.

He said four people had been found shot and burnt to death in cars, while a security guard, who was thought to have been responding to the incident, was also fatally shot.

Police said, a group of armed people came to the church and allegedly attacked people who were inside, indicating that they were coming to take over the premises.

General Khehla John Sitole, the National Commissioner of Police, said the quick response by authorities averted even more destruction and death.

Sitole said in a statement Saturday: “I am certain that the speedy response by the joint security forces has averted what could have been a more severe blood bath,”.

” … It is rather unfortunate that such an incident takes place during a time when South Africa is being plagued by a deadly virus and violent crimes,” he added.

Five rifles, 13 pistols, and 16 shotguns along with other weapons, were found at the church, which police have been combing for evidence.

The South African Police Service (SAPS) said that among those arrested were members of SAPS, the Johannesburg Metro Police Department, the South African National Defence Force and the Department of Correctional Services.

The International Pentecostal Holiness Church is thought to have about three million members in Southern Africa.

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