JOHANNESBURG, July 11 (Reuters) – Police are hunting for five attackers who burst into a bar in Soweto, South Africa, and killed 15 customers in a hail of at least 137 bullets over the weekend, the police minister said on Monday.
Nine other people were wounded in the shooting in the early hours of Sunday morning that shocked a nation with one of the world’s highest murder rates.
Police confirmed a second shooting hours earlier on Saturday, in a tavern in Pietermaritzburg, 500km (300 miles) southeast of Soweto, that killed four and wounded eight; and a third on Thursday during a suspected robbery in a tavern in Katlehong, outside Johannesburg, which killed two and wounded two.
The three attacks are not believed to be linked.
The killings have unleashed a wave of public anger at the police for failing to tackle high levels of violent crime.
“It was such a brutality,” Police Minister Bheki Cele told a crowd gathered in Soweto’s Orlando East neighbourhood. “These people really came to kill and destroy. We don’t know their motive but I guarantee we will find them.”
The high number of rounds used in Soweto – forensic teams found 137 AK-47 cartridges at the crime scene – meant the killers would have had to reload while in middle of the slaughter, he said.
Around 20,000 people are murdered in South Africa every year out of a population of about 60 million.
There are about 3 million guns registered in the country, according to campaign group Gun Free South Africa, though many more are thought to be circulating on the black market.
Townships like Soweto were the creations of white minority rule, which ended in 1994 but whose legacy of widespread poverty, youth unemployment and frustration persists.
Reporting by Nqobile Dludla Writing by Tim Cocks Editing by Andrew Heavens