Police hunt tavern gunmen as South Africa faces chain of massacres

Police scramble as a string of three separate mass shootings hit South Africa over the weekend, leaving 21 dead, no arrests have been made.

 Gunmen kill 15 people inside a tavern in Soweto (photo credit: REUTERS)
Gunmen kill 15 people inside a tavern in Soweto
(photo credit: REUTERS)

Following a mass shooting that took the lives of 15 people and wounded nine, new information released by the South African Police reveals that this was the third mass shooting in a bar in a span of three days, claiming a total of 21 lives.

South African Police forces are hunting for five attackers who massacred 15 patrons in a bar in Johannesburg's Soweto township, in a hail of at least 137 bullets on Sunday, the police minister said on Monday.

Another shooting occurred just hours earlier on Saturday, police revealed, in a tavern in Pietermaritzburg, 500 km. southeast of Soweto, that killed four and wounded eight.

Police confirmed a third shooting on Thursday during a suspected robbery in a tavern in Katlehong, outside of Johannesburg, which killed two and wounded two others.

Police currently believe the three attacks are not linked.

Sweetwaters shooting

Four people were killed and eight were wounded in the Pietermaritzburg shooting after two men fired indiscriminately at customers, police said, on the same night as the Soweto bar shooting that left 15 dead.

The attack occurred at about 8.30 pm in a tavern in the semi-rural community of  Sweetwaters, close to a car wash and a liquor store, according to AFP.

Police were trying to verify if the attacks were linked, they said, noting their similarity.

"Two assailants entered the bar and fired random shots at the patrons before fleeing."

Nqobile Gwala

 “A total of 12 people were shot. Two people were declared dead at the scene and the other two died in hospital,” he said. “Another eight people are still in hospital after they sustained injuries.”

Soweto shooting

A few hours later, a mass shooting at a tavern in Johannesburg's Soweto township killed 15 people and left three others in critical condition on Saturday night, Gauteng Poice Chief Elias Mawela told ENCA news.

In the Soweto massacre a few hours later, 15 people were killed and three others were left in critical condition on Saturday night, Gauteng Police Chief Elias Mawela told ENCA news.

Initial reports show several high-caliber firearms were used in the shooting. The ballistic spread of the bullets coupled with the number of cartridges found at the scene suggests the shooting was carried out by several people over a broad area, seemingly randomly.

Police have identified the five shooters and a manhunt is currently underway to capture the suspects; the police released no further details.

Initial police reports show a group of masked men arriving in a minibus and opening fire on some of the patrons at the tavern.

The three critically wounded patrons and one other wounded person were taken to Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital.

According to the Police Chief, the shooting so far seems random, and no clear motive for the massacre has been identified.

Katlehong shooting

Four unknown gunmen entered the tavern and fired shots in the direction of a pool table where patrons were playing, according to police reports.

"It is reported that four men, of which one of them was armed with a 9mm pistol, entered the tavern and started shooting randomly at patrons," Gauteng police spokesperson Colonel Dimakatso Sello said.

They demanded a firearm and began shooting randomly at patrons. Six people were shot, two of whom died at the scene, and two people were rushed to hospital.

Gauteng police commissioner Elias Mawela said the motive for the shooting was robbery.