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Police came under fire from unknown suspects while conducting an operation in the rural area of Umsinga in the KwaZulu-Natal midlands yesterday.
The operation was led by crack detectives from the Vehicle Crime Investigation Section Unit stationed in Ladysmith.
The operation was a huge success because, according to police, they discovered 14 stolen and stripped cars in the area. Some of the recovered vehicles, which belonged to private companies, had been reported stolen in different parts of the province.
According to spokesman Captain Charmaine Struwig, police crossed a veld, walked into a donga which resembles a dry river bed and discovered the stolen vehicles.
"While police were examining the vehicles, they came under fire from unknown suspects who were shooting from a nearby hill.
"Police took cover while backup was summoned. Once reinforcements arrived, the shooting ceased," she said.
Struwig said it was fortunate that no police members were injured during the incident. She said ownership of 10 of the vehicles had been positively established so far.
"We will contact the owners to assist in identifying their vehicles. They need to be reminded that, even though they may have already been compensated by their insurance companies, the police will require them and their insurance companies to identify the vehicles," Struwig said.
Struwig said all the vehicles were allegedly stolen during the past few months.
Concerned resident Thembeka Majola said police had ignored their reports for a long time.
"We've been telling them that criminals have shifted their operations to our area, but I was not aware that so many cars were hidden in that donga.
"We are happy that police will put an end to the work of this criminal syndicate," she said.
Residents allege that a syndicate has also targeted nearby Colenso and Dundee, where three vehicles were allegedly stolen.
In other reports, police say cars were stolen in Greytown, Hilton, Ladysmith, Phoenix and Tongaat near Durban.