Five killed in attack on South African church, hostages freed
Five people have been killed in an attack on a church west of Johannesburg, South African police have said, with some of the attackers taking hostages who were later freed.
At least 40 people were arrested and 40 firearms, including rifles, shotguns and handguns related to the attack on the International Pentecost Holiness Church in Zuurbekom, were seized, police spokesman Vishnu Naidoo told the local eNCA television on Saturday.
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 early morning 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".
"averted what could have been a more severe bloodbath", national police commissioner Khehla John Sitole said.
Among those arrested were members of the police, defence 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.
"Trouble has been brewing at the church following the death of its leader‚ Glayton Modise‚ in February 2016," The Sowetan newspaper reported in 2018.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has rejected international condemnation over the decision to change the status of Istanbul's landmark Hagia Sophia from a museum to a mosque, saying it represented his country's will to use its "sovereign rights".
In the past, he has repeatedly called for the stunning building to be renamed as a mosque and in 2018, he recited a verse from the Quran at Hagia Sophia.
"Those who do not take a step against Islamophobia in their own countries ... attack Turkey's will to use its sovereign rights," Erdogan said at a ceremony he attended via video-conference on Saturday.
The colossal Hagia Sophia was built 1,500 years ago as an Orthodox Christian cathedral and was converted into a mosque after the Ottomans conquered Constantinople, now Istanbul, in 1453. The secular Turkish government decided in 1934 to make it a museum.