New wave of bombs hits South Africa poll

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The Independent Online
South Africans, white and black, closed ranks last night after two more bomb attacks by ultra- right terrorists seeking to disrupt this week's all-race elections.

Ten people died and 41 were injured yesterday morning when a camping trailer packed with explosives blew up beside a taxi rank used by black people in Germiston, near Johannesburg.

And at least two black people were killed and 29 injured in Pretoria last night when three white men hurled a bomb into a crowded bar frequented by blacks.

The attacks followed a car-bomb explosion in the centre of Johannesburg on Sunday, in which nine people died. Police reported 11 other bombings, including two attacks on taxi ranks and several on polling stations, in which no one was hurt.

Politicians and security chiefs said there was no doubt the country faced a concerted and well-organised attempt - almost certainly by the far right - to disrupt the voting over the next three days. A police reward of 1m rand ( pounds 200,000) has been offered for information leading to the arrest of the culprits.

The Commissioner of Police, Johan van der Merwe, said earlier that detectives were close to a 'breakthrough' in their investigations into the bombings. But that was before last night's attack in Pretoria.

Earlier in the day, the ANC reported that passers by had made a 'citizen's arrest' after a man fled from a car packed with explosives in Benoni, near Germiston. The deputy minister of law and order, Gert Myburgh, said a suspect was being questioned, but the police later denied anyone had been arrested.

South Africa is braced for further outrages today, when voting begins with elderly and disabled electors.

In the Germiston attack, police said 100kg (220lb) of high explosives had been packed into a trailer towed behind a minibus. The trailer exploded beside a group of people waiting for taxis.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks, which in South Africa is not unusual. The ANC national chairman, Thabo Mbeki, claimed yesterday that they had the hallmarks of the 'Third Force', elements within the security forces accused of having orchestrated much of the township violence in the past four years.

Politicians of all parties condemned the attacks and vowed to press ahead with South Africa's transition to democracy.

Pik Botha, the Foreign Minister, told the last session of the apartheid parliament in Cape Town: 'We will not allow ourselves to be scared off. I appeal to all South Africans to take part in the elections with

even greater dedication and

determination.'

General Van der Merwe said the police force remained committed to combating terrorism 'tooth and nail and will not fail in its duty to protect the birth of democracy in South Africa'.

The ANC President, Nelson Mandela, visiting victims of Sunday's blast, said he had spoken to President F W de Klerk and General Van der Merwe. 'I was convinced they want to put an end to the violence . . .'

Election reports, pages 12 and 13

Leading article, page 15

Soweto harmony, page 22

Wellington (Reuter) - Nelson Mandela's niece was the first black to vote, thanks to New Zealand's time zone. Nomaza Paintin was among about 20 South Africans who cast their ballots at the New Zealand justice department. Married to a New Zealander, she is a daughter of Mr Mandela's late brother, Sidima Khaka.

(Photograph omitted)

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