Police launch manhunt for suspects in slaying

By Sahm Venter

EAST LONDON, South Africa (AP)—Hundreds of police hunted Sunday for black assailants who killed five whites in a gun and grenade attack—which again bore the message that the wealthy suburbs are no longer spared from political violence.

Some whites called for a crackdown. But President F.W. de Klerk appealed for restraint, saying the killings must not provoke retaliation.

No one claimed responsibility for the Saturday night attack at a hotel in the southern coastal city of East London, but the militant Pan Africanist Congress has carried out a number of attacks against whites in the region.

Until late last year, political attacks against white civilians were extremely rare. Most unrest in South Africa involved clashes between black factions and was largely restricted to black townships far removed from the white suburbs.

But 15 whites have been killed in a series of attacks in the past six months, most of them around East London and Johannesburg. The government blames the Pan Africanist Congress.

Elements of the PAC oppose talks on ending apartheid, claiming that blacks must seize power by force.

Police said they believed the same ‘‘gang’‘ was involved in the Saturday attack, but declined to say whether they were looking specifically for PAC members.

Three black men wearing masks burst into the Highgate Hotel, tossing tear gas into a bar, a hand grenade into the pool room and strafing the area with AK-47 assault rifles, witnesses said. Six white men and one black were wounded.

The killing apparently will not derail negotiations in which black and white groups are trying to fix a date for the first election to include blacks.

But the shooting will heighten tensions just when it seemed the country was calming down following the April 10 assassination of Chris Hani, a popular leader in the African National Congress and the South African Communist Party.

‘‘It is critically important at this time that the leaders of all political parties and groups should exercise maximum restraint,’‘ de Klerk said in response to the killings.

But Neville Beling, one of those hurt in the hotel violence, said the incident had turned him against blacks.

‘‘If I could get a hold of that guy, I would kill him,’‘ Beling, 20, said in an interview from his hospital bed. Beling had gunshot wounds in his left arm, leg and kidney.

A Volkswagen Beetle covered with freshly painted graffiti was parked outside the hotel Sunday. The messages read: ‘‘Turn Security Forces Loose’‘ and ‘‘De Klerk Must Resign.’‘

‘‘It’s open season on whites in this country,’‘ said the car’s owner, Alan Leach.

Police offered a reward of $45,000 for information leading to the killers.

Near Johannesburg, meanwhile, police intervened Sunday between rival black groups at the funeral of former ANC President Oliver Tambo, who led the movement from 1967 to 1991 before being replaced by his longtime friend Nelson Mandela.

Tambo, who died of a stroke at age 75, was buried at a cemetery in Wattville as police held back hundreds of heavily armed supporters of the Inkatha Freedom Party, the ANC’s bitter rival.

Police and soldiers in armored vehicles placed razor wire around a workers’ hostel housing the Inkatha supporters, who chanted war slogans and brandished machetes. Nearby, armed ANC supporters gathered, but no incidents were reported.

The funeral drew scores of foreign dignitaries, including American black activist Jesse Jackson and Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala.