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Police kill suspected cell tower battery thief in gun fight

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Members of the South African Police Service (SAPS) during the weekend shot and killed a suspected cell tower battery thief.

This, as mobile operators’ base stations have over the years increasingly been targeted by organised crime syndicates and vandals, leaving communities unconnected.

The criminal activity has seen the mobile network operators fork out hundreds of millions of rand to replace the equipment.

In a statement yesterday, SAPS says on Saturday night, police officers from Amangwe and Estcourt acted on information about four suspects who were tampering with cellphone tower batteries with the intention to steal.

According to SAPS, the suspects were traced and located at the Nyezane area in Amangwe.

When police approached the suspects, SAPS says they were met by a hail of bullets and there was an exchange of gunfire.

One of the suspects was fatally wounded and two were arrested. A pistol with three rounds of ammunition, two vehicles, an angle grinder and a crowbar were recovered from the suspects.

Police are still searching for the remaining suspect who managed to flee the scene.

The suspects aged 26 and 35 appeared in the Estcourt Magistrate’s Court yesterday on charges of attempted murder, unlawful possession of firearm and ammunition, and tampering with essential infrastructure.

Mobile operators have lamented that the rate of vandalism and theft, especially multiple repeat incidents, is sometimes forcing the operators to abandon base stations due to unviable replacement costs, thereby adversely impacting network availability or quality in some areas.

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