No fewer than six people have been killed as gunmen raided a police station in a small South African town on Wednesday.
Five police officers and an off-duty soldier were killed in the brutal attack in Nqcobo, about 800 km (480 miles) southeast of Johannesburg, police spokesman Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo said.
The unidentified gunmen also carted away quantities of weapons and a vehicle in what police are said to be treating as a robbery, Reuters writes.
“This incident happened in the early hours of the morning when armed robbers, or what we suspect is armed robbers, entered the station, randomly opened fire on the police officers on duty,” Naidoo told eNCA news channel.
The gunmen also shot a bystander who turned out to be an off-duty soldier as they fled in a stolen police vehicle, Naidoo said.
South Africa’s police minister, Fikile Mbalula, has described the attack as a national tragedy.
“The killing of our law enforcement officers robs us of dedicated servants of our people whose only sin was to serve and protect,” Mbalula wrote on Twitter.
South Africa has one of the highest crime rates in the world, and it’s also been mired in political instability that culminated in the ouster of former President Jacob Zuma.