- A Free State police officer has been shot during a rhino poaching incident.
- There was a shootout between police and suspected poachers, which left an officer wounded.
- Two people have been arrested for poaching, but the gunmen fled the scene.
A Free State police officer was injured during a rhino poaching incident in the Vredefort area on Tuesday night.
The 34-year-old police officer was shot in the leg during a shootout with suspected poachers, and was rushed to hospital, said police spokesperson Brigadier Motantsi Makhele.
Two people have since been arrested on charges of rhino poaching, while the gunmen remain at large.
On Tuesday evening, police officers from the Heilbron Stock Theft and Endangered Species Unit and Tactical Response Team (TRT) carried out an observation watch following a tip-off about suspects planning to poach rhinos in the Vredefort area.
"A motor vehicle fitting the description circulated was spotted and stopped. The two suspects, aged 39 and 37, were arrested after being linked to the poaching conspiracy," said Makhele.
Meanwhile, officers in Presidentskop also encountered two suspected poachers.
"A shootout ensued between the poachers and police. One TRT member was shot in the leg and rushed to hospital for medical attention. However, the suspects managed to flee the scene, leaving behind one .375 hunting rifle, 10 rounds of live ammunition, a silencer and an axe. These items were confiscated by the police," he said.
Two cases have been opened - one for the attempted murder of the wounded police officer and another for rhino poaching.
"The two suspects will be charged for... rhino poaching and are set to appear before the Vredefort Magistrate's Court on Thursday. There is no one arrested for the attempted murder at this stage," said Makhele.
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