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GUNMEN OPEN FIRE ON COPS, TRUCK, 1 INJURED

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MBABANE – Two traffic police officers stared death in the face when gunmen opened fire on the Royal Eswatini Police Service (REPS) caravan normally parked at the cooling station for trucks at Mangwaneni.

The cooling station is situated along the MR3 Public Road, behind the prime minister’s residence. The shooting incident happened at around 11:50pm on Tuesday. One of the police officers was shot in the chin, while going about his duties inside the caravan and is currently recuperating in a health facility. His colleague, was at a distance outside the caravan, escaped with no injuries.

Shots

The gunmen also fired several shots at a truck that was parked near the cooling station, when the truck driver raised the alarm after hearing the gunshots. The truck driver, who was only identified as Matse, was not injured. He told this publication that he was travelling to the Republic of South Africa, and after ascending the Malagwane Hill; he felt sleepy and decided to take a nap. He said he parked the truck adjacent to the cooling station and slept. He said he was woken up by several gunshots and he screamed, which might have angered the gunmen, who later came for him. He stated that moments later, the assailants emerged on the passenger side of the truck, near the overhead footbridge behind the prime minister’s residence, and opened fire.

Driver

According to the truck driver, he ran to the police caravan and found the police officer lying down. “I was travelling to Oshoek and after ascending the Malagwane Hill, I was sleepy and wanted to dose off just for an hour and proceed with my journey. I then heard gunshots. I got out of the truck and ran to the police caravan and the officer was lying down. The gunmen had shot at the police. I did not see how many gunmen were there. It’s by the grace of God that I’m alive,” he said.  When they were satisfied that the gunmen had left, cops were called to attend to the scene and the injured police officer was rushed to hospital, where he was admitted.

This reporter visited the scene at about 5am yesterday. There were plenty empty bullet casings on the tarmac outside the caravan, which had several bullet holes, especially on the windows. Droplets of blood dotted the floor of the caravan as well, supposedly from the shot officer. The windscreen of the truck was left with bullet holes, while the window on the passenger’s side was shattered.  The fuel tank of the truck was not spared from the shooting, as diesel was dripping from it and the police who arrived at the scene used soil to prevent it from spreading further to the road surface.

About six cartridges of a pump action shotgun were found at the scene. A pump action or slide- action firearm is one in which a forehand can be moved forward and backward in order to eject a spent round of ammunition and to chamber a fresh one. The truck driver added that he was fortunate to be alive, and could not tell how many gunmen were there since it was dark. When the incident happened, police officers had been called to the University of Eswatini (UNESWA) Mbabane Campus, where a fire had been started. Meanwhile, an insider said he suspected that the assailants took advantage of the faulty lights along the highway. He said had the lights been functional, the gunmen might not have attacked the police officers, as they would have been easily spotted.

Danger

He further stated that  lives of police officers were in danger in many ways, and the police service should consider constructing a proper structure at the cooling station. “The establishment of the cooling station along the highway was a good idea, as it reduced the number of accidents, but the welfare of the police officers who are stationed there should be considered. It is not safe to use the caravan as their office, as they are exposed to attacks and different weather elements,” said the source.

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