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Page last updated at 13:57 GMT, Thursday, 26 June 2008 14:57 UK

Police forces exchange fire in SA

File photo of metro police firing rubber bullets outside Johannesburg in May 2008
Police in Johannesburg recently had to deal with anti-immigrant riots

South African police opened fire on each other as national officers tried to break up a strike by local forces in Johannesburg, officials have said.

National police intervened to break up a strike by metro officers that was blocking traffic. Seven metro police officers were injured, they said.

A union official denied that local police had fired live rounds in response to rubber bullets.

The protest was triggered by complaints about salaries and nepotism.

South African Police Service (SAPS) Superintendent Eugene Opperman said the confrontation began when metro police who were blocking traffic refused to move.

If our members had fired live bullets at the SAPS, there would have been a bloodbath
Union official Vincent Vena

"SAPS then used rubber bullets to disperse them," he said.

"They fired back with live bullets... We only used rubber bullets all through."

But Vincent Vena of the South African Municipal Workers Union challenged Supt Opperman's account.

"If our members had fired live bullets at the SAPS, there would have been a bloodbath," he said.

Correspondents say police in South Africa have a reputation for being heavy handed.




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