JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Two protesters were shot dead by police when a mob armed with stones and petrol bombs attacked a police station in northern South Africa on Tuesday night, local police said.
At least 15 police officers were injured — three of them critically — when about 2,000 people attacked the station near the sub-tropical farming town of Tzaneen in Limpopo Province, said police spokesman Brig. Hangwani Mulaudzi.
It is not known how many protesters were injured. Nineteen police vehicles were damaged and extensive damage was caused to the police station, Mulaudzi said.
"Anyone who was facing that situation last night would have no option but to do what the members did to protect their lives," he said.
Nine people were arrested for public violence, said Mulaudzi.
The rampage is believed by police to have been sparked by allegations that a teenage boy was shot dead by police in the area. Mulaudzi said the situation remained tense on Wednesday.
Mulaudzi said the trouble between police and the local community started after the body of a murdered woman was discovered in the area last Thursday. Two suspects were taken into custody for questioning by police on Friday but were later released. Angered by their release, community members went on a rampage on Saturday, burning the houses of the suspects.
During that protest a 15-year-old boy was shot dead, allegedly by police, Mulaudzi said.
"The firearms of officers who attended the protest were taken for ballistic tests to confirm if the boy was indeed killed by police," he said.
National Police Commissioner General Riah Phiyega cancelled appointments on Wednesday morning in order to pay a visit to the troubled area.
The latest deaths bring to eight the number of people allegedly killed by police in South Africa during violent protests this month, according to local news reports.