3 Killed as Police Fire at Blacks After Peace Move Is Confirmed
Police fired on a black crowd Sunday near the mining town of Welkom, killing three and wounding at least 12 just minutes after demonstrators confirmed a peace plan for the racially torn community, witnesses and officials said.
Police opened fire in the black township of Thabong, about 175 miles southwest of Johannesburg, after the demonstrators decided to suspend an 11-day boycott of businesses that had angered right-wing white extremists.
A police spokesman at national headquarters in Pretoria said the three deaths took place when police were forced to open fire with tear gas, rubber bullets and shotguns to control the crowd.
He said the crowd stoned the police contingent and set fire to properties as the mass meeting of protesters dispersed.
Racial tension has been simmering in the town since two whites were killed last week by protesting black miners at a gold mine outside the Orange Free State town. Nine blacks are scheduled to appear in court today in connection with the deaths.
Thabong Youth Congress member Tshepo Jobo told the independent South African Press Assn. that a large number of police opened fire without warning on the crowd Sunday.
Welkom Hospital said five patients were admitted with birdshot and rubber-bullet wounds. Seven other people were admitted to another local hospital, the South Africa Press Assn. reported.