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15 Shot Dead In Soweto Township Bar

At least 15 people have been shot dead in a bar in the South African township of Soweto, police say.

Police said gunmen entered the Orlando East tavern in the early hours of Sunday morning and started firing randomly at a group of young people.

They then fled the scene in a white minibus. No motive for the attack has been established, police said.

Several more people are in a critical condition in hospital, the BBC’s Nomsa Maseko reports

The victims are believed to be between 19 and 35 years old.

“Bodies were on top of each other with blood all over. We were looking for our loved ones, we had to jump over bodies looking for our brothers,” said local resident Ntombikayise Meji.

Gauteng province’s head of police, Lt-Gen Elias Mawela, told the BBC the shooting appears to have been “a cold-blooded attack on innocent tavern patrons”.

A press statement released by his office said the gunmen had been armed with rifles and 9mm pistols when they entered the bar.

Police are searching for the suspects, whose identities remain unknown, it said.

Thaban Moloi, a community leader in Soweto, was angered by the amount of time it took police to arrive at the scene.

“It’s terrible, I’m telling you. People don’t know what to do. If you were there you could see women and children crying,” he said.

Mr Moloi said the attack happened at 23:00 local time (21:00 GMT) on Saturday but police didn’t arrive until 04:00 on Sunday.

“It took five hours for them to come, honestly,” he said.

A relative of one of the victims shot dead in a tavern in Soweto reacts next to the crime scene in Soweto

Four other people were killed in a separate tavern shooting in the south-eastern province of KwaZulu-Natal, police said on Sunday.

President Cyril Ramaphosa expressed his condolences to the relatives of victims of both shootings.

“As a nation, we cannot allow violent criminals to terrorise us in this way, regardless of where such incidents may occur,” he added.

Shootings are not uncommon in South Africa. They are often linked to gangs or alcohol.

But this is an exceptionally high death toll and comes soon after the death of 21 teenagers thought to have been either gassed or poisoned at another bar in the city of East London.

The crowds were gathered around Mdlalose’s Tavern under a typically cloudless winter sky in Soweto – some here to mourn, others just to gawk. They were pinned back by yellow police tape, as forensics went about the grim business of retrieving evidence from inside the bar. Groups of women burst into song, dancing in the litter-strewn street.

South Africa is a very violent country at the best times, but this particular incident, coupled with another shooting in Pietermaritzburg, has shaken many here.

We spoke to one man who was inside the bar when the shooting happened. He described how a group of men burst in, opened fire, and how they didn’t take anything from anyone, wallets, phones, nothing, leaving him and others baffled as to the motive. Halfway through the interview, a police officer intervened, and said we can’t talk to him. The gunmen may be among the crowd, he said, and they may target this witness next.

Another woman who lived nearby told us she heard the gunshots and ran to the bar to find the horrific aftermath of the shooting. People in the community are afraid, she said, and she has no idea who might be behind it.

She, Soweto and the country, are all desperately seeking answers.


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