Seven suspected black guerrillas were shot to death Monday by South African police in a fierce gun battle outside Cape Town, the latest in a series of clashes that are bringing the black nationalists' armed insurgency into urban areas.
Gen. Johan Coetzee, the national police commissioner, said that his men, acting on a tip, thwarted a planned attack on a dozen black officers by guerrillas of the African National Congress. He said his men ambushed the guerrillas.
Coetzee said that the rebels, armed with AK-47 rifles, pistols and grenades, had been following a police van picking up the black officers in Guguletu, a black township outside Cape Town, and were about to attack it when other policemen, lying in wait for four hours, halted their vehicle and, after a grenade was thrown, opened fire.
Four guerrillas were shot to death in the five-minute fusillade, according to the police, and three more were chased into the surrounding brush and killed in gun battles. Witnesses told reporters that one of the black nationalist rebels was killed while trying to surrender and that another, wounded and writhing on the ground, was "finished off" by a white police officer. Police spokesmen strongly denied the charges.
Two policemen were slightly wounded, one by grenade fragments and the other by flying glass. The police showed reporters half a dozen assault rifles and pistols and a number of grenades they said the guerrillas had carried.
Had the rebels succeeded, the Guguletu attack would have been one of the boldest in 25 years of armed struggle against South Africa's apartheid system. They would have killed, within 10 miles of the center of Cape Town, a dozen black policemen regarded as traitors to the nationalist cause.
Over the last four months, there have been at least seven such clashes, all on a smaller scale but each demonstrating the increased efforts of the African National Congress to assume the leadership role in the mounting black protest against apartheid. The organization in recent months appears to have been placing a number of its guerrillas, trained largely in military camps abroad, in urban positions from which they can act in the growing unrest.
But the ANC--its military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation) is the main guerrilla group fighting apartheid--has become so riddled with South African government spies that it can rarely keep its plans secret. Eight black rebels were killed in gun battles with the South African police and army earlier this year, according to government reports.
Four more blacks, two apparently killed by police and two by other blacks who apparently viewed the victims as collaborators, were reported killed elsewhere Monday in the continuing civil strife.
The badly charred bodies of two men, both doused with gasoline and set afire, were found in black townships near the industrial city of Port Elizabeth, on South Africa's Indian Ocean Coast.
Attack on Police Home
Two men were shot and killed near Potchefstroom, about 60 miles southwest of Johannesburg, in an attack on a black policeman's home, but there was no immediate confirmation of their deaths at police headquarters in Pretoria or by local police spokesmen.