File picture: Mujahid Safodien/AP

Johannesburg - Police have confirmed a brazen robbery of 36 Dutch tourists on Sunday allegedly carried out by group of criminals, one of whom was dressed in SAPS uniform.

According to police spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo, the tourists were travelling in a bus shortly after landing at OR Tambo International Airport for a holiday when the bus was ambushed.

"The bus travelling with the tourists was stopped by a man dressed in police uniform. A group of other suspects dressed in (civilian clothing) robbed them (tourists) of their belongings," Naidoo explained.

He added that he could not comment on the state of the tourists currently, "but I can say there were no reports of any injuries".

However, a source who asked to remain anonymous told The Star that some of the tourists "were beaten up and threatened" during the process".

The source added that the tourists were on their way to Magaliesburg, western Gauteng, for their holiday.

Naidoo asserted that police were "extremely concerned" at suspected criminals using SAPS uniform to conduct crime.

"Therefore, we have assigned this investigation to a group of seasoned detectives from our National Investigation Unit," Naidoo said.

Asked what other actions the police were engaged in to curb what possibly could be a spate of airport followings and robberies, Naidoo said: "We have put in a revised strategy and, since July 25, this has been the first incident reported."

He added: "We have since this robbery (on Sunday) enhanced our capacity and capabilities in strategically identified areas."

The brigadier said no arrests had yet been made in this robbery, and appealed to the public to inform the police should with any information that could lead to arrests, by dialing 08600 10111.

This incident caused a major row in the Netherlands, where the biggest newspaper in that country, Binnenland, reported as its front page lead story that the tourists "received the shock of their lives" when they were robbed.

One of the tourists quoted in the story, identified only as P. Bakker, said the alleged thugs had weapons during the robbery, where there were roughly 70 passengers on board.

Bakker confirmed in the story that the tourists were indeed assaulted by the robbers.    

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The Star