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By Craig McKune
Poilce have arrested four suspects after a fifth brazen attack in two months on hikers in the Hermanus mountains.
Three international volunteers, working at nearby Camphill School, were held up at knifepoint on Monday morning by two men who stole their camera and a cellphone, police spokeswoman Pindelwa Mavakala said.
As the attackers fled, they stoned the hikers, telling them to look away.
Municipal manager Werner Zybrandts said the two women were body-searched by the attackers.
The hikers - Brazilian Luca Reigosa, Swiss Cornelia Schneider and German Anna Fliske, aged between 19 and 26, according to Mavakala - were not injured.
This comes one week after a South African couple living in Toronto were stabbed, stoned and left bound by two men at the intersection of a jeep track and a hiking trail.
Four of the attacks have occurred at this site and police are investigating whether the attacks are linked.
After Monday's attack, which happened shortly after 11am, the three hikers walked down to the information centre at the Fernkloof Nature Reserve entrance.
Law enforcement officers subsequently arrested a man they found in the reserve, Zybrandts said.
Later, in the Hemel-en-Aarde valley on the other side of the mountain, Mavakala said a security guard had become suspicious and followed a man who was slowly driving a vehicle close to Camphill Farm while talking on a cellphone.
"Two guys climbed into the car and he dropped them off later, close to Hermanus," she said.
Police officers, who had arrived on the scene, arrested all three men and found the hikers' cellphone and camera in bushes close by.
Zybrandts said one of the four men - who were still in police custody late Tuesday - had been positively linked to Monday's mugging.
"We're still busy with investigations to see if we can recover any of the items that were stolen in the other attacks," said Mavakala.
As a result of the previous four attacks, Zybrandts said, signs had been erected at six of the reserve's informal entrances, warning hikers of the attacks and urging them to use the main entrance where they could sign in to a control book.
The three hikers mugged on Monday had not, however, passed one of these signs. "They came in from a totally different area on the other side of the mountain. There are no signs there."
In the first attack, on November 12, an Italian couple was held up while sitting on a bench.
One week later a German couple was held up at knifepoint nearby, and a week after that eight elderly hikers from Strand were beaten with their own walking sticks, said reserve manager Grant Forbes.