party attack leaves 8 dead
EIGHT revellers, including three from the same family, were shot dead by a group of armed men who had been refused entry to a Christmas Eve party in South Africa's troubled KwaZulu-Natal province, police said yesterday.
Bala Naidoo, a police spokesman, said that at least two men unknown to the hosts had insisted on gatecrashing family festivities at a home in the coastal town of Margate, about 100 miles south of Durban, late on Thursday night, but that they had been turned away.
"The group then started to fire shots randomly at the guests," Mr Naidoo said.
The seven men and one woman who died were between 18 and 43 years old. Two party-goers were wounded and five escaped unhurt. Police were still searching for the suspects.
President Nelson Mandela said that he was "shocked and outraged" by the killings.
National radio reported that the president, holidaying at his birthplace, Qunu, in the Eastern Cape, said that he was particularly distressed as the shooting had taken place as the country was preparing for "the most peaceful festive season so far in KwaZulu-Natal".
KwaZulu-Natal, a flashpoint of political violence, in which thousands have died since the mid-1980s, has a history of festive-season violence.
On Christmas Day in 1995, at least 14 people were killed in a mass raid on supporters of the ruling African National Congress by warriors of the predominantly Zulu-based Inkatha Freedom Party.
Mr Naidoo said that this year's attack was unlikely to be politically motivated. "I doubt it very much; I think it is pretty much just people not being allowed access to the premises," he said.
Six men were shot and hacked to death by a gang of men armed with AK- 47 assault rifles and machetes on Wednesday in a suspected faction fight in the town of Harding, 40 miles north-west of Margate. Police said on Thursday that reinforcements were making their way to Harding as frightened residents fled the volatile region.