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Residents of Osizweni, near Newcastle in KwaZulu-Natal, are living in fear after six dangerous awaiting- trial prisoners escaped from the area's police station at the weekend.
The suspects, aged between 16 and 24, were arrested for murder, rape, robbery and other crimes.
The police rearrested one of the men, 24-year-old rape suspect Bhuti Shozi, on Monday.
Residents now fear that the men on the run will strike again.
They have vowed to hunt down the escapers themselves if the police fail to catch them.
"It is known that police carelessness led to the suspects' escape.
"This is not the first time this has happened. In October prisoners assaulted the officers on duty and made their escape from the same police station," said Osizweni resident Bhekani Ngcobo.
A police spokesman, Captain Riane de Jager, confirmed the escape.
"The officers on duty went to check the cell and found the door closed but not locked. All the prisoners in the cell had escaped," she said.
De Jager said an investigation will be conducted to establish how the suspects escaped.
The suspects still on the run are Xolani Makhubu, Siyabonga Ntsele, Siyabonga Shabangu, Sibusiso Luvuno and Mfanafuthi Sydney Nkosi.