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5 Dead in Gruesome Hostage Situation at South African Church

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Five people are dead and more than 40 have been arrested after an early-morning hostage situation at a church near Johannesburg, police in South Africa said Saturday.

A statement said police and military who responded to reports of a shooting at the International Pentecostal Holiness Church headquarters in Zuurbekom found four people “shot and burned to death in a car” and a security guard shot in another car.

Six other people were injured.

Police said they rescued men, women and children who had been held hostage and appeared to have been living at the church. It was not clear how many were rescued.

The attack by a group of armed people “may have been motivated by a feud” between church members, the police statement said.

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The church is one of the largest in South Africa.

Photos tweeted by the police showed more than a dozen men lying on the ground, subdued, along with rifles, pistols, a baseball bat and boxes of ammunition — including at least one marked “law enforcement.”

The response by security forces “averted what could have been a more severe bloodbath,” national police commissioner Khehla John Sitole said.

The church’s headquarters has been the scene of violence between factions more than once in recent years, with shots fired, rocks thrown and cars smashed, according to local news reports.


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