Five shot dead after hostage situation at church in South Africa, police say

Attack "may have been motivated by a feud" between church members, police said in a statement.

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By Associated Press

Five people are dead and more than 40 have been arrested after an early-morning hostage situation at a long-troubled church near Johannesburg, police in South Africa said Saturday.

Four people were "shot and burned to death in a car" and a security guard was found shot in another car by police and military who responded to reports of a shooting at the International Pentecostal Holiness Church headquarters in Zuurbekom, a statement said. Six other people were injured.

Police said they rescued men, women and children who had been held hostage and appeared to have been living at the church. It was not clear how many were rescued.

The attack by a group of armed people "may have been motivated by a feud" between church members, the police statement said. The church is one of the largest — and reportedly richest — in South Africa.

Photos tweeted by the police showed more than a dozen men lying on the ground, subdued, along with rifles, pistols, a baseball bat and boxes of ammunition —including at least one marked "law enforcement."

The response by security forces "averted what could have been a more severe bloodbath," national police commissioner Khehla John Sitole said.

Among those arrested were members of the police, defense forces and correctional services.

The church's Zuurbekom headquarters has been the scene of violence between factions more than once in recent years, with shots fired, rocks thrown and cars smashed, according to local news reports.