POLICE in Solwezi have gunned down three suspected dangerous criminals believed to be behind a spate of robberies in the area.
The suspected criminals, who were said to be targeting financial institutions, lodges and hotels, were gunned down around midnight on Monday after they attempted to escape from the police.
North-Western Province police commissioner Eugene Sibote confirmed the incident and named the three suspected criminals as Willy Phiri, 33, of Kafue, Kennedy Cholwe, 43, and 37-year-old James Msiska.
Mr Sibote explained that police received a call on the emergency line that there were some suspicious looking people at Solwezi Royal Hotel pretending to look for accommodation, but they later left the hotel premises in an unregistered Toyota Corolla.
Police officers started tracking the vehicle and spotted the group at Popoz Pool Club where they were apprehended.
After interrogations, the suspected criminals admitted that they had an AK47 rifle which was hidden along the old Solwezi-Chingola Road.
However, when they reached the place in the company of the officers, the suspected criminals failed to locate the rifle.
Some police officers decided to get a gadget used to detect objects and it was at that point that the suspects attempted to flee, forcing the officers to open fire.
Msiska is believed to have been arrested five years ago and was released on bail, but later escaped.
He was later arrested in Chingola after he allegedly stole from Pep Stores.
Msiska is further said to have recently been arrested in Botswana and his passport indicated that he entered Zambia on December 13, last year.
The same group was also seen loitering at FNB Bank in Solwezi before being spotted at Solwezi Royal Hotel.
Some residents flocked to Solwezi General Hospital to catch a glimpse of the bodies of the suspected criminals when the news circulated that they had been killed.