Three held after cigarette delivery van hijacking

2016-06-08 13:07
The hijacked panel van that police found abandoned.

The hijacked panel van that police found abandoned. (Supplied)

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Pietermaritzburg - After a physically grueling and dangerous chase through the bush near Umbumbulu, police and members of a private security company arrested three alleged hijackers who robbed a cigarette delivery van on Tuesday.

The chase, which was accompanied by a hail of gunfire, lasted almost one hour, with police having to traverse almost five kilometres of bush to nab the suspects.

Two of the five men are still on the run.

At about 10.30 am yesterday, the driver of a panel van, who was delivering cigarettes to a tavern in the Mvuzane reserve, was ambushed by five armed men who appeared from the roadside.

The man was attacked and robbed of his vehicle and cellphone before the alleged hijackers made off with the panel van, which was packed with cigarettes.

The incident happened near Umbumbulu, about 60 km outside Pietermaritzburg.

It is believed the men went to a secluded area where they swopped vehicles, packing their car with the stolen goods and abandoning the panel van in roadside bush.

During their escape, it is believed the alleged hijackers were halted by members of a private security company who came under fire as the men exited their car.

Police and members from Magma Security raced to the scene after reports of a gunbattle went over the police radios.

In the commotion, the alleged hijackers fled into the roadside bush on foot, constantly firing at police and Magma Security members who were hot on their heels.

Speaking to The Witness on Tuesday, Magma’s Shaheen Suleiman said in the shootout, one suspect was shot and was taken to hospital for treatment.

Another two were then arrested.

Police recovered the stolen panel van as well as the getaway vehicle containing the loot.

Provincial police spokesperson Captain Nqobile Gwala said a case of car hijacking was opened at the Umbumbulu police station for investigation.

Last month, a gang that could be linked to a string of cigarette heists was taken down in a series of high-speed car chases.

The gang had allegedly committed an armed heist in the Harding area, robbing a British American Tobacco truck of R680 000 worth of cigarettes, before ­police and Magma Security members hunted them down.

• amil.umraw@witness.co.za

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  hijacking  |  robbery

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