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Scenes from yesterday's shooting at Lonmin Platinum Mine near Rustenburg. Str/AP/Press Association Images
South Africa

'Several' South African miners shot dead by police

Video footage of the shooting has been broadcast across South Africa.

AS MANY AS 30 people may have been killed after South African police opened fire on a workers’ protest at Lonmin Platinum Mine near Rustenburg on Thursday.

A spokesperson for the national police said “several individuals” were fatally wounded during the incident, while others were injured.

Captain Dennis Adriao claimed that officers were forced to engage with “a heavily armed group of illegal gatherers” in order to “protect their own lives”.

He described the shootings as acts of self-defence.

The crime scene, which covers a vast area at a hilltop close to the mine is currently being managed by an Independent Police Investigative Directorate. The National Commissioner of the South African Police Service, General Riah Phiyega, and members of her top management are also at the scene, appraising themselves of the situation, which investigators say is still unfolding.

Police say the armed group charged at officers before any firearm was discharged. They had failed to negotiate with the striking miners, who refused to hand over machetes, clubs and other weapons. The Associated Press reports that police ministry spokesperson Zweli Mnisi admitted that more than 30 people were killed.

Images broadcast by private television station e.tv carried the sound of a barrage of automatic gunfire that ended with police officers shouting: “Cease fire!”

Warning: this video may be distressing to view

President Jacob Zuma is “alarmed and deeply saddened” at how the situation degenerated and lead to the tragic loss of lives.

“We are shocked and dismayed at this senseless violence,” he said in a statement. “We believe there is enough space in our democratic order for any dispute to be resolved through dialogue without any breaches of the law or violence.”

While the initial walkout and protest focused on wages, the ensuing violence has been fueled by the struggles between the dominant National Union of Mineworkers and the upstart Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union. Disputes between the two unions escalated into violence earlier this year at another mine.

-Additional reporting by Associated Press

More: Police open fire on striking miners in South Africa>

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