Thupeyo Muleya

Beitbridge Bureau

A lone gunman who held 10 people hostage, among them his 10-year-old niece, was shot and killed by police in a movie-style operation that lasted 14 hours at a house in Beitbridge’s Dulivhadzimu suburb yesterday morning.

The man, who was identified as John Sithole, also known as Kedha, was on the police wanted list in connection with several armed robberies committed in Beitbridge and along highways to Harare and Bulawayo.

The Herald understands that the suspect was launching his operations from Musina in South Africa and would most of the time skip the border through the Limpopo River.

By end of the day yesterday, police were still verifying the age of the man believed to be from Chipinge and aged between 22 and 25 years.

It took nine hours for a police Special Tactics Team and members of the Support Unit to subdue the heavily-armed Sithole.

During the stand-off, Sithole managed to shoot and wound one detective on the arm.

The police special tactics team arrives at the scene

The town was at a standstill for over eight hours with cars and residents filling the nearby streets to witness the shoot-out.

According to neighbours, the suspect had been staying at the house for two weeks.

“I was terrified to hear the sound of heavy gunfire in the middle of the night behind my house. When I went outside, I saw some armed police and there were already some spent cartridges. Police calmed us down and told us they were pursuing a dangerous armed robber next door,” said Ms Rumbedzani Ribombo.

A big crowd that gathered to witness the stand-off

National police spokesperson, Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said it was unfortunate that someone had died and urged people to avoid exchanging gunfire with police and to comply with their orders.

“It is sad that the suspect died. We wanted to question him to clear a number of armed robbery cases,” said Asst Comm Nyathi. “Initially the suspect evaded arrest at the Limpopo River and hid at his rented house in Dulivhadzimu where he was found by our detectives.

“Since he was armed, they ordered him to surrender but he turned violent and held 10 people at the house hostage and opened fire at police. They tried everything to make him surrender but he was not relenting and kept firing until reinforcements were called in from our special tactics unit,” said Asst Comm Nyathi.

The door next to the room where the suspect was eventually shot dead in a gunfire exchange with the police special tactics unit

He said the police managed to free the 10 hostages, including the man’s wife and niece, but the man remained in combat mode until he was killed.

His body was taken to Beitbridge District Hospital mortuary.

The incident came a few weeks after the country’s most wanted armed robber, Taj Abdul Musa was arrested in the same town as he planned a robbery.

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