Warehouse bust averts major crime

Mvuyo Mati

Mvuyo Mati

Police nabbed 19 alleged would-be robbers and recovered an assortment of weapons and ammunition during a pre-dawn raid near East London yesterday.

Five R5 rifles, two AK47 assault rifles, eight pistols, a teargas canister, a blue police rotating lamp, 2,5 litres of liquid chlorine, 20 cellphones and 16 identity documents were seized during the operation at a disused factory in Fort Jackson.

Police spokesman Superintendent Mzukisi Fatyela said the weapons and ammunition were contained in plastic trunks.

He said that six vehicles including a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, an Audi A4 sedan, two Isuzu panel vans and a Telkom van equipped with a ladder were, also recovered.

He said the would-be robbers were also found in possession of a map outlining their operation plan, which police are still investigating.

Fatyela said a heavily-armed organised crime unit with back up from other police units started the operation at about 8pm on Monday.

They waited until 2am yesterday morning to move in and make the arrests.

Fatyela said police also confiscated four fully-loaded rifle magazines, 164 spare rounds of ammunition, 250 pistol rounds, two bullet-proof vests, police number plates and three balaclavas.

He said the ID books found with the men did not belong to any of them.

The suspects range in age from 18 to 50 and are from the Eastern Cape, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.

"This is a major breakthrough, but we want to establish what they were planning to do," said Fatyela.

"This would have been a big operation and many people could have been killed," he said.

He said the suspects were facing charges of conspiracy to commit armed robbery, possession of unlicensed firearms and possession of stolen vehicles.

Fatyela lauded members of the public for tipping off the police about the planned operation.