UPDATE | 8 shot dead as police pounce on gang ahead of cash heist

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Eight suspects were killed and another eight arrested in a shootout that also left police officers injured in Rosettenville, Johannesburg, on Monday afternoon.

The violent scene, described as a "warzone" by eyewitnesses, saw police top brass hurry to Rosettenville where officers and heavily armed criminals, believed to be involved in cash-in-transit heists, clashed.

"We are working with heartless people who are prepared to kill us," Police Minister Bheki Cele told the media.

He was accompanied by Gauteng police commissioner Lieutenant-General Elias Mawela who said the assailants were "hardcore criminals" that police had been monitoring since last week.

According to Mawela, the suspects were on their way to commit a cash-in-transit heist.

"Last week, they didn't commit their crime, so today they decided to commit their crime [but] our teams were just behind them and when they realised that here are the police, they were rushing to their safe house.

"That is when our team, highly trained, dealt with them," he said.

Cele added the armed group was made up of 25 gunmen from KwaZulu-Natal, Zimbabwe and Botswana.

Firearms, explosives and petrol as well as cars that were hijacked or stolen were recovered from the scene.

Reports of the incident emerged after two Netcare911 helicopters were dispatched near the South Rand Hospital in Johannesburg amid the shootout.

"Two helicopters were activated for two patients with gunshot wounds [near] the South Rand Hospital to be airlifted to Union Hospital," Netcare911 spokesperson Shawn Herbst told News24 on Monday.

Herbst said their helicopters were circling the scene and was awaiting clearance to land.

Three police officers were also allegedly shot and injured. One of the officers was apparently shot in the chest. A hostage was also allegedly taken but later released.  

Witnesses spoke of heavy gunfire akin to a warzone.

Sources on the ground said a police helicopter was chasing suspects who fired on it.

They said the helicopter crew was wounded. More gunshots went off near the South Rand Hospital around 18:00 as Mawela, Cele and top brass police leadership arrived at the scene.

It is believed police were clearing the area of suspects when they arrived.

At the scene, News24 observed two armed men lying inside a white BMW SUV. It was unclear if they are still alive.

In between the men, was an assault rifle. The car is presently outside St Martin School near South Rand Hospital.

Spent cartridges were strewn along Friars Hill Road and Gotthard Street. 

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