GROUP OF 19 UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA STUDENTS ROBBED AT GUNPOINT IN SOUTH AFRICA

GROUP OF 19 UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA STUDENTS ROBBED AT GUNPOINT IN SOUTH AFRICA

A group of students from the University of Florida who had traveled to South Africa as part of an outreach trip were robbed at gunpoint near Pretoria, according to media reports.

The 21-person group, which included 19 students, a professor and a UF staff member, had their laptops, cellphone, cameras, passports, plane tickets, money and bags taken from them, according to a statement from the South African Police Service.

The robbery happened on Monday afternoon as the group arrived at the Viva Foundation School in Mamelodi East, a township northeast of Pretoria, police said. The holdup was carried out by at least five armed robbers.

South African news outlet News24 reported that the robbers entered the school at the same time as the group from Florida and blended in before executing the robbery with a “military-like precision.”

“There were five to eight gunmen, a taxi with no number plates,” Viva Foundation School chair Leon Kriel said, according to News24. “When they came in, according to the witnesses, they moved with military precision through every classroom, clearing every classroom, doing sweeps.”

According to the Gainesville Sun, nobody in the University of Florida group was injured.

However, a local woman was hit in the hand by a stray bullet as the gunmen apparently fired shots while fleeing, News24 reported. Another woman, a computer science teacher at the school, had been pistol-whipped.

South African police said the gunmen “allegedly fired shots randomly when they were getting away in a white Toyota Quantum with no registration numbers.”

“This blatant disrespect for the law to a point of not caring about the safety of little children of this particular pre-school, is a blatant attack on, and undermining the authority of the State,” said police official Lt.-Gen. Elias Mawela in the police statement. “Police will leave no stone unturned in ensuring that these suspects are found and brought to book.”

Maya Barrett, a University of Florida student from Tampa, posted an account of the robbery on Facebook on Tuesday.

“We are all safe and grateful to have walked away from the crime alive,” she wrote.

She wrote that the gunmen ambushed the group after they had gone through the school’s gates. After the robbery the group ran into a classroom to hide. She hopes the incident won’t lead to unfair blame being cast on South Africa.

“We had people hugging us, feeding us, and apologizing even though they had no fault,” Barrett posted. “Please do not use my experience as justification for any prejudice you may hold.”

The Sun also reported Monday that three students from the University of Florida group were returning home.

BRETT CLARKSON / SOUTH FLORIDA SUN SENTINEL

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Nigerians in South Africa
Nigerians in South Africa 1705 posts

We are about democracy, human rights, public opinion, political behavior, civil rights and policy aimed at improving the human condition, with a focus on African countries.

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