'They dragged our officers like dead dogs'
Police chief gives chilling account of killing spree at Engcobo police station in Eastern Cape
“It was a battle field. It was an undeclared war.”
These are the words of Engcobo police station commander Colonel Vukile Jackson Ntuli, who described in chilling detail how a group of men stormed his station this week in a deadly rampage, killing five officers.
A sixth victim – a retired soldier – was shot dead in the road near the police station.
It is believed as many as 20 men were involved in the attack, which coincided with the robbery of two ATMs close to the station. Police suspect the ambush on the officers was an attempt to distract them from the ATM robberies.
Ntuli was speaking at a briefing at the Engcobo Municipality council chambers on Thursday.
“These guys planned this. They were heavily armed with powerful weapons and they concealed their faces. They turned the service office into a battlefield.”Describing how the attack went down according to information given to him, Nthuli said that on Tuesday just before midnight officers heard numerous gun shots and realised the station was under “heavy” attack. The gunmen burst into the charge office and two officers died in a hail of bullets.
“They killed the police officer in charge of the shift and his subordinate,” Ntuli said. The gunmen took the officers’ guns and looted the firearms safe.
Nthuli said other officers had been on patrol duty in town when the attack occurred. As one of the vans entered the station, it was showered with bullets, killing one of the officers inside. A second officer in the vehicle is believed to have been injured and has since been discharged from hospital.
“After their shooting spree they left and attacked another police van in town, killing the two police officers [inside]. They took the vehicle and their guns and dragged the officers like dead dogs and left them on the side of the road.”He said that by the time reinforcements had been called in, the attackers had left. Police then discovered that two ATMs near the police station had been robbed while the attack on the station was underway. The ATMs are about 100 metres from the station and police believe the two incidents are related. The ATMs were broken into with drills and grinders.
Nthuli said between 15 and 20 attackers were estimated to have been involved.
Provincial police spokesperson Khaya Tonjeni said two officers had been injured and admitted to hospital. They were discharged the same day. Four people have been taken in for questioning.
Police released the names of their members who were killed on Thursday evening. They are: Warrant Officer Zuko Mbini, 45, Constable Zuko Ntsheku, 38, Constable Nkosiphendule Pongco, 32, Constable Sibongiseni Sandlana, 32, Constable Kuhle Mateta, 27.
Thursday’s briefing was organised by Popcru and other stake holders and was attended by generals from the South African Police Services head office, ANC provincial chairman Oscar Mabuyane, Abathembu King Azenathi Dalindyebo and representatives from the taxi industry.