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Police in KwaZulu-Natal are acting on the instructions of MEC for transport, community safety and liaison Bheki Cele to fight fire with fire.
This comes after more suspects were wounded in a shootout with the police in Pietermaritzburg yesterday. It brings to five the number of people, including two wanted ATM bombers, who have died in shootouts with the police in less than a month.
Speaking in KwaNongoma at the funeral of KwaZulu-Natal's "best cop", Superintendent Zethembe Chonco, Cele ordered the police to stop "romancing" thugs.
A tearful Cele said when the police "shoot and kill criminals" they would have his full support.
"The police should know that they have my full support, that of the provincial government and Minister od Safety and Security Charles Nqakula," he said.
Cele said he was disturbed by comments by a non-governmental organisation and a human rights body who criticised him when he said police should return fire when criminals shoot at them.
Cele said when police were killed, NGOs did not say anything.
"When someone points a gun or fires at you, do the right thing to protect your life," he said. "I don't regard criminals as human beings."
Meanwhile, police spokesman Henry Budhram said that a policeman went to a tavern in Imbali township to look for a murder suspect.
"When the officer did not find the suspect he left. While driving he saw a group of men. When the officer approached, one of the men opened fire forcing him to retaliate, wounding two men.
"Subsequent investigations led police to the Edendale Hospital where both wounded men were.
"One later died of his wounds," Budhram said. "The other is believed to be a suspect in a murder case that is being investigated."