FIVE passengers have been shot dead by highway bandits who hijacked a truck in which they were travelling between Kabwe and Kapiri Mposhi.
The five men were travelling from Lusaka to Kasama on a truck, registration ALF 2406, when they were waylaid just before a police and immigration checkpoint at Manyumbi area and commandeered to a bush where the gunmen sprayed bullets on them.
Central Province police chief Standwell Lungu confirmed the incident which occurred on Thursday around 22:00 hours.
The truck was hired to ferry iron sheets and mattresses from Lusaka to Kasama.
Police suspect that the bandits had been trailing the truck in a Toyota Corolla before waylaying it and holding the five passengers and the driver hostage.
There were four bandits armed with AK47 rifles.
Mr Lungu said the thugs demanded money but the driver and his passengers indicated that they did not have, a which angered their captors.
They opened fire on the six and left them sprawled on the ground before going away with the truck and the Toyota Corolla.
However, the driver regained consciousness and managed to crawl to Manyumbi Police Post, but could not fully explain what had transpired as he passed out.
Mr Lungu said the five bodies were only discovered yesterday morning after officers went to check at the scene of the shooting.
He, however, could not disclose the names of the deceased until their relatives were informed.
Central Province Permanent Secretary Annie Sinyangwe directed the police to ensure they track down the criminals.
Ms Sinyangwe said the incident was a new phenomenon because highway crime in Zambia was not common.
She said the killings should be a wake-up call for police officers to introduce regular highway patrols and more checkpoints considering that Kabwe had recently recorded deaths, especially among taxi drivers.