10 shot dead in Cape Town church: Black gunmen open fire on congregation in attack likely to undermine negotiations in South Africa

IN a macabre and unprecedented twist to the endemic violence wracking South Africa, five hooded gunmen burst into a church in a Cape Town suburb during a service last might and opened fire, killing at least 10 and wounding 53. About 1,000 people were in St James's Church of England, Kenilworth, when the attack took place.

The attackers, who used AK-47 rifles, also lobbed two hand grenades into the church. The police said all five were black. Nobody had claimed responsibility for the attack by midnight last night.

Among the dead were three Russian seamen, who were among 130 of their countrymen attending the service. Two hours after the killing, the notes the Reverend Ross Anderson used for his sermon were still lying on the altar, and the church aisles remained streaked with blood.

A church usher who was monitoring the door through which the attackers entered said he saw a rifle poke through the door. 'I dived for the stage . . . The shots were continuous,' he said.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the head of the Anglican Church in South Africa, described the massacre as a diabolical act - 'the most foul, despicable thing imaginable'. 'We in the Church of the Province extend our deepest condolences to the bereaved and our sympathies to the injured and all those of the Church of England in South Africa.'

President F W de Klerk said from Pretoria that he had learned with shock and horror of the killings. 'The attack on a church introduces a new and horrifying element into the cycle of violence which we are currently experiencing and points to the inherently evil nature of those involved in the perpetration of violence.'

Immediately putting a political colouration on the attack, Mr de Klerk said 'the great majority of decent South Africans' should 'not allow outrages such as this to undermine our common effort to achieve a peaceful and negotiated solution to the problems of our country'.

The Law and Order Minister, Hernus Kriel, echoed Mr de Klerk's words and said the attack 'emphasises the dire need for our entire society to unite with the South African Police in combating such atrocities'.

'Every effort should also be made to assist the SAP in tracing and seizing illegal weapons such as those used in this horrific incident.'

An eyewitness, who did not want to be named, said he saw a man walk in through the side door of the church and then 'a pop-popping sound'. 'At first I could not comprehend that shots were being fired, thinking there had to be some sort of electrical fault. I dived onto the ground and lay there until the shooting stopped and then ran out and got into my car and got as far away as I could.'

Initial police reports indicated two white men had been among the five who attacked the church but the police later retracted this and declared that all the attackers had been black.

The liberal Democratic Party issued a statement last night describing the massacre as 'the most appalling act of terrorism' in years. The impact on the democratic process would be devastating, the DP said.

Qualifying somewhat the DP statement, numerous massacres have occurred in South Africa in the last three years in which rather more than 10 people have died. Most of these have been in black townships either in Natal province, where the Zulu-on-Zulu conflict between ANC and Inkatha supporters has raged for eight years, or in the Johannesburg area. Cape Town has been relatively free of such atrocities. Nationwide, the white suburbs have remained virtually untouched by indiscriminate violence.

The impact of the attack on white South Africans, already jittery and uncertain enough at the prospect of democracy and black rule, seems bound further to undermine the effort of the ANC and government to build a new political centre through constitutional negotiations. The only political beneficiaries from the church massacre are likely to be the black and white right-wing extremists pushing to halt progress towards democratic elections.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - PHP

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With extensive experience and a...

Barnardo's: Corporate Audit and Inspection – Retail Intern (Leeds)

Unpaid - £4 lunch allowance plus travel to and from work: Barnardo's: Purpose ...

Recruitment Genius: Content Writer - Global Financial Services

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: From modest beginnings the comp...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - PHP

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: From modest beginnings the comp...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future