The intentions of 12 heavily armed men who were arrested in transit near Cradock at the weekend were still unknown yesterday.
According to a police report, the men were armed with six pistols, an AK47 assault rifle and an undisclosed quantity of ammunition.
They were apprehended at a roadblock established to intercept them outside Cradock, about 245km from Port Elizabeth, on Saturday night.
They were travelling in a Toyota Quantum minibus in the direction of Port Elizabeth or Cape Town.
Provincial police spokeswoman Colonel Michelle Matroos said two off-duty police officers from the Cradock K9 unit had received information from colleagues at the Queenstown K9 and public order policing units about the vehicle.
“They booked themselves on duty and started to patrol the area just outside Cradock, where they stopped the vehicle.
“During a search of the vehicle‚ 12 male occupants were arrested for possession of illegal firearms and the unlawful possession of ammunition‚” Matroos said.
Forensic tests will be carried out on the firearms to determine, among other things, whether they have been used in any crimes.
The suspects are expected to appear in court soon.
Cradock police spokeswoman Captain Lariane Jonker, who was present at the roadblock, said the men’s intentions, their destination and where they had come from were still under investigation.
“I can’t tell you much at this stage except that the firearms were unlicensed and illegally in the suspects’ possession,” she said.
“Everything is still under investigation.”
Jonker would also not say whether the vehicle the men were travelling in was a commercial taxi or a privately owned vehicle.
She did, however, reveal that the driver of the vehicle was among the 12 arrested men.
Eastern Cape provincial police commissioner Lieutenant-General Liziwe Ntshinga praised the team for their vigilance in the recovery of the illegal firearms.
“Our back-to-basics approach is bearing fruit with good old-fashioned police work. We will continue to stamp the authority of the state with increased operations throughout the province,” she said.