South African police shoot dead striking miners

Thu Aug 16, 2012 10:56pm GMT

By John Mkhize

MARIKANA, South Africa (Reuters) - South African police opened fire on striking miners armed with machetes and sticks at Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine on Thursday, killing at least a dozen men in scenes that evoked comparisons with apartheid-era brutality.

In the incident, filmed by Reuters television, officers opened up with automatic weapons on a group of men who emerged from behind a vehicle and started loping towards police lines.

The volley of bullets threw up clouds of dust, which cleared to reveal bodies lying on the ground.

President Jacob Zuma said he was "shocked and dismayed" at what appeared to be one of the bloodiest police operations since the end of white-minority rule in 1994 in Africa's biggest economy.

"I have instructed law enforcement agencies to do everything possible to bring the situation under control and to bring the perpetrators of violence to book," he said in a statement.

Police have refused to confirm the death toll from the operation to disperse 3,000 protesting drill operators who had massed on a rocky outcrop near the mine, 100 km (60 miles) northwest of Johannesburg.

"The police, in order to protect their own lives and in self-defence, were forced to engage the group with force," they said in a statement. "This resulted in several individuals being fatally wounded, and others injured."

The police ministry said that the officers acted as they did only after first trying to peacefully disperse the crowd.   Continued...

A policeman (R) fires at protesting miners outside a South African mine in Rustenburg, 100 km (62 miles) northwest of Johannesburg, August 16, 2012. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
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