Two bombs exploded today outside a crowded downtown courthouse, killing three police officers, injuring at least 10 other people and sending hundreds into the streets in panic, authorities said.
Adriaan Vlok, minister for Law and Order, blamed the outlawed African National Congress for the blasts. The explosions came on the fourth anniversary of a terrorist bombing blamed on the ANC that killed 19 people in Pretoria.
A Johannesburg police spokesman said one police officer died at the scene and two others died in the hospital. Four officers were in serious condition and at least six civilians were injured in the nearly simultaneous lunchtime explosions, which could be heard 10 blocks away.
Woman Gives Birth
Among the wounded was a pregnant woman who gave birth at the scene and was rushed to a nearby hospital.
“The consciousless deed in which members of the public, irrespective of race, sex or age, are prey to cowardly acts of the ANC is to be condemned in the strongest terms by all right-thinking people,” Vlok said in Cape Town.
One bomb exploded in a car parked outside the courthouse about 12:35 p.m. and another went off near an entrance moments later, a police spokesman said.
“It was terrible. There was this huge bang and I looked around and saw this woman flying through the air,” said a witness, who asked not to be identified.
“I was standing in the corridor when all hell broke loose,” said another.
Witnesses said the explosions scattered debris hundreds of yards down the road and shattered windows in nearby shops.
At midday the court complex is usually crammed with hundreds of witnesses, magistrates, lawyers, police officers and other officials.
Duncan Guy, a reporter for the Johannesburg Star who was in the building when the bombs exploded, said hundreds of people ran out of the building in panic. “Police shouted, ‘Bomb, bomb, get out,’ ” he said.
Police detained more than 10 reporters and photographers at the bombing scene, apparently for filming nearby John Vorster Square police headquarters, where windows were shattered from the force of the blasts.
Police closed off the blast area today and kept reporters and huge crowds back as about two dozen emergency vehicles converged on the courthouse.
Today’s bombing occurred within 14 hours of a limpet mine explosion in the posh Carlton Center hotel and shopping complex, about 20 blocks from the courthouse. Police said no one was injured in Tuesday night’s explosion.