'Dead or alive': Vow to hunt killers of cops in deadly raid
Eastern Cape town rocked by attack in which six - including five officers - died
We’re coming for you – dead or alive.
That was the message from South Africa’s top cop on Wednesday at ground zero in Engcobo in the Eastern Cape, as the country and the town reeled in the wake of a deadly raid on the local police station in which six people – including five police officers – died.The attack was the second attack in less than a year and took place in the early hours of Wednesday morning after an unknown number of gunmen stormed the station. Police confirmed they suspect there could be common attackers in both incidents.
National police commissioner General Kehla John Sithole said: “They (criminals) sent us an invitation; we are going to send a response. We want them dead or alive.”
He said a multi-disciplinary investigative task team, backed by a special tracking team, had been dispatched to apprehend the attackers and that a national high-risk team had been activated.
Locals were shocked by Wednesday’s attack and Engcobo came to a standstill as hundreds of residents lined the main streets in town leading to the police station while police crime scene experts looked for evidence.Resident Zandisile Xhokashe, whose cousin is a police officer at the police station, said he had rushed to town after hearing what had happened, fearing for his cousin’s life.
“I am only breathing a sigh of relief now after discovering that he is safe, but what happened here was really painful.”
Spar Superspar store manager Barry Howlett said his business had been hit by armed robbers late last year, resulting in the death of one person.
“This town has become a hotspot for armed robberies and crime in general. We need a strong police presence, especially during the day.”
In the earlier attack on the police station in March last year, officers were attacked by thugs who made off with an undisclosed number of firearms. An ATM was also bombed at the same time.
“This is the second time that this is happening here in Engcobo police station and I suspect that it is the same suspects who came back to continue with this,” a source told Times Select’s sister publication, the Daily Dispatch.
“When this happened last year, the community said they needed more police officers, but that never happened and look at what is happening today.”Last year in February, the chief traffic officer for Engcobo Local Municipality was shot six times but managed to survive. His relative was shot dead.
“We are targeted by criminals because we don’t have enough police officers in the area. The chief traffic officer was nearly killed by thugs who are yet to be arrested. Some police officers have their firearms snatched by thugs in the middle of the town every now and again. There’s no respect for police,” said the source.
At the station on Wednesday other officers were being interviewed by investigators and receiving counselling.
Eastern Cape police spokesman Captain Khaya Tonjeni said three officers were killed instantly in the attack. Two others were found dead later after being taken by the attackers, who had also killed a retired soldier while fleeing.
Tonjeni said 10 firearms – two rifles, two shotguns and six pistols – were taken.
Police Minister Fikile Mbalula flew from parliament to Engcobo. He described the attack as a national tragedy and said it was “rude awakening to government to ensure that police are protected inside police stations”.
He gave investigators 72 hours to track the perpetrators.
“There must be cameras inside police station and security guard at the gate. Fit metal detectors inside so that police can be ready when perpetrators enter and not die like flies,” he said.
– Daily Dispatch