Attempt to steal PPE from OR Tambo leads to deadly shootout

  • An attempt to steal personal protective equipment from OR Tambo International Airport was foiled by the police following a dramatic shootout and high-speed car chase.
  • The police said seven suspects were arrested, two shot dead and several injured, including a member of the public. 
  • Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula welcomed the quick action of law enforcement. 

An attempt to steal personal protective equipment from OR Tambo International Airport's cargo area on Saturday left two people dead and several injured, including one civilian, according to the police.

In a statement on Saturday, police spokesperson Colonel Brenda Muridili said seven suspects had been arrested and five firearms were recovered following a shootout between law enforcement and the suspects after a high-speed car chase.

READ | 2 dead, 7 injured during alleged robbery at OR Tambo

"At about 12:30 today [Saturday], a group of suspects entered the cargo section at the OR Tambo airport and held the staff at gunpoint at one of the warehouses.

"The manager of the warehouse noticed employees lying on the floor and immediately notified the police and airport security," Muridili said.

Upon arrival, the police and security officers chased after the suspects' truck and bakkie which had left the cargo area.

"A high-speed chase and shootout resulted. Subsequently, seven suspects were arrested, four of them with gunshot wounds, while two others were shot dead.

"A civilian in the vicinity sustained a gunshot wound apparently by a stray bullet," she said.

When the police caught the suspects, they found they had attempted to steal personal protective equipment, including masks, as well as three crates of cellphones.

"The police and airport security's swift response to the robbery is proof of the effective collaborative security measures that have been put in place at the airport.

"The arrested suspects will be appearing in the Kempton Park Magistrate's Court soon, facing charges of armed robbery," Muridili added.

Mbalula welcomes quick action

According to department spokesperson Ayanda Allie Paine, Reshebile Aviation and Protection Services Explosive Detection K9 Unit, which is contracted by the Airports Company of South Africa, had responded to the robbery.

The nine suspects allegedly held staff at the cargo area hostage while they robbed the premises.

The police were alerted to the robbery and intercepted the suspects before a shootout ensued.

ALSO READ | OR Tambo customs officials seize rhino horns worth R117m

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula welcomed the "swift action" of law enforcement, saying criminal elements were determined to undermine the law even during Covid-19.

"As the country unites to fight against the spread of Covid-19, it is clear that there remains a few criminal elements who are hell-bent on undermining the laws of the republic and putting the lives of law-abiding citizens at risk.

"Their brazen acts of criminality will not be tolerated, we will not allow crime to prevail, even in times of Covid-19. We will continue to ensure both the health and the safety of all," Mbalula said.

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