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South African Police Engage in Shootout, Fatally Wounding 18 Gang Members Linked to Armed Heists

CAPE TOWN, South Africa—Sixteen men and two women suspected of being part of a gang that robbed armored vans were killed Friday in a shootout with South African police in a rural northern region.

Officers approached a building where the gang was operating, and the suspects opened fire, police said. Officers then returned fire, killing the 18 suspects, police said. One police officer was wounded. Four other suspects were arrested at a separate location.

Police said their top officials, including the national commissioner of police, the deputy commissioner, and the head of the elite Hawks unit were at the scene of the shootout in the Makhado municipality in the Limpopo Province.

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The gang was suspected of robbing armored vans used for carrying cash from banks and had been under surveillance for days. Police spokesperson Brig. Athlenda Mathe said in a statement that seven automatic rifles and 10 vehicles, including high-performance sports cars, were seized.

Cash-in-transit heists are a common and often violent crime in South Africa.

The gang that police targeted on Friday were suspected of heists in at least three provinces, police said.

The shootings added to an horrific two days for the country after at least 74 people died in a fire in a rundown apartment complex in the city of Johannesburg in the predawn hours of Thursday.

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