South Africa police and military have responded to reports of an early-morning hostage situation at a Pentecostal church outside Johannesburg. Five people were found dead and six more were injured according to a police statement on Saturday.
Four people were found "shot and burned to death in a car" and a security guard shot dead in a nearby car at International Pentecostal Holiness Church in Zuurbekom. The police posted on social media that around 25 firearms were confiscated. More than 30 people were arrested.
#sapsGP Early hours this morning #SAPS was alerted to a hostage situation & shooting @ International Pentcost Holiness Church, Zuurbekom, 30 suspects arrested & seized more than 25 firearms. 5 fatalities are confirmed. The scene is still active with SAPS Hostage Negotiators. TM pic.twitter.com/5sMjYkYFjg - - SA Police Service 🇿🇦 (@SAPoliceService) July 11, 2020
The photos posted by police on social media show men lying on the ground as well as pistols, rifles, boxes of ammunition and a baseball bat.
Law enforcement officials said they had rescued men, women and children from the church where they had been held hostage. It appeared that they had been living there. No indication was made as to how many people were rescued.
The police believe the attack "may have been motivated by a feud" between church members. The church is one of the largest in South Africa.
Among the members arrested include employees of South African police, correctional services, and defence forces.
Security forces on the scene "averted what could have been a more severe bloodbath", said national police commissioner Khehla John Sitole.
Violence has broken out before between various factions who are reportedly battling for control of one of South Africa's richest churches.
Local media reports that trouble began after leader Glayton Modise died in February 2016.