Durban - Two police officers and seven suspected armed robbers were killed on Friday night during an attempted cash-in-transit heist in the Hlabisa area of KwaZulu-Natal, police said. 

According to South African Police Service (SAPS) spokesman Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo, the incident took place at 7pm when a group of heavily armed men attacked a security vehicle and used explosives to access cash inside the vehicle's vaults. 

"Members of the South African Police Service’s special task force (STF) and crime intelligence (CI) were following up on intelligence that a cash-in-transit (CIT) vehicle was going to be attacked. At about 7pm last night a group of heavily armed suspects attacked the security vehicle and used explosives to access the cash along Hlabisa Road," Naidoo said in a statement on Saturday morning.  

Police officers "responded speedily", which resulted in a shoot-out with the alleged robbers.  

"Seven suspects, a member from CI, and [an] STF member were killed during the skirmish. A female member who was shot in the leg is currently receiving medical treatment."

Four AK47 assault rifles had been recovered. A BMW used by the suspects was reportedly used during other robberies, including a recent robbery at the Nongoma Shell garage, Naidoo said.  

SAPS national commissioner Lt-Gen Khehla John Sitole conveyed his deepest condolences to the families of the dead police officers and wished the wounded member a speedy recovery. "This is yet another sad day for both the South African Police Service as well as South Africa at large, for every time the life of a  police officer is lost in combat the nation mourns," said  Sitole.

"I offer my highest praise to all our colleagues that have once again put their lives on the line to bring hardened and selfish criminals to book," he said. 

African News Agency/ANA