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Blacks Set Fire To Soweto Trains

April 14, 1987

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ Black militants set fire to 10 trains at several stations in the black township of Soweto, forcing thousands of black commuters to jump from burning coaches.

The Sowetan, a daily newspaper for black readers, said an undetermined number of people returning home to Soweto from Johannesburg were injured in stampedes for safety from the blazing cars Monday night.

A government Bureau for Information spokesman said blacks set fires that damaged trains at five stations, but said he had no reports of related arrests, injuries or deaths.

Also today, the Bureau for Information reported four blacks died Monday in unrest around Johannesburg.

Sixty blacks set fire to a house in Tsakane township, east of the city, the bureau said, and two men who ran out were killed with stones and a garden fork. In Soweto, blacks fired from a moving vehicle at a security force foot patrol, the bureau reported. A man and a woman were killed when the patrol fired back.

The government-run South African Broadcasting Corp. said 250,000 commuters were late for work in Johannesburg today because the fires at the Soweto stations reduced train service by 20 percent, overloading bus and taxi services.

Elmarie Roux of the South African Transport Services said all Soweto trains operated during this morning’s rush hour, but that many were late.

Deon van Loggerenberg of the Bureau for Information said ″black radicals″ damaged 26 coaches on 10 trains as workers returned from jobs in Johannesburg to homes in Soweto, a black township of more than 2 million people about 12 miles from the city.

He said he had no reports of arrests, injuries or deaths resulting from the fires, and did not know how the fires were set. Trains were attacked at five stations in Soweto, he said.

Van Loggerenberg said he did not know if the attacks were politically motivated or were linked to a month-long strike by about 16,000 black railroad workers protesting disciplinary action against a fellow worker.

The main effect of the walkout has been to delay freight deliveries.

A spokesman at National Police headquarters in Pretoria referred questions about the incidents to the Bureau for Information, the official source of information about political unrest in South Africa.

Asked how authorities determined the attacks represented unrest, Van Loggerenberg replied, ″This is a difficult case. We are handling it.″

Censorship rules under a 10-month-old state of emergency ban or restrict information about unrest, security force actions, treatment of detainees, most forms of peaceful protest and a broad range of statements the government considers subversive.

The emergency was imposed to give police and soldiers wide powers to quell unrest in black townships stemming from opposition to apartheid.

By law and custom, apartheid establishes a society in which the 24 million black majority has no vote in national affairs. The 5 million white minority controls the economy and maintains separate districts, schools and health services.

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