South African police officials are investigating the motive behind the attack on an International Pentecostal Holiness Church in Johannesburg over the weekend.
Police say an unknown number of men, women, and children were rescued after being held "hostage" at the church, The Guardian reports.
During their investigation, authorities discovered four people shot to death, then burned inside a vehicle. The body of a security guard was also found in another car.
More than 40 people were arrested, which included members of the police department, defense forces, and correctional services.
In a statement issued by police, the attack "may have been motivated by a feud" between church members. International Pentecostal Holiness Church is one of the largest and wealthiest churches in South Africa with more than 3 million members, according to the BBC.
Early Saturday morning, SA Police Service tweeted images of various firearms, a baseball bat, and boxes of ammunition that had been recovered.
#sapsGP Early hours this morning #SAPS was alerted to a hostage situation & shooting @ International Pentcost Holiness Church, Zuurbekom, 30 suspects arrested & seized more than 25 firearms. 5 fatalities are confirmed. The scene is still active with SAPS Hostage Negotiators. TM pic.twitter.com/5sMjYkYFjg
— SA Police Service(@SAPoliceService) July 11, 2020
Johannesburg local media reports that over the past few years, previous incidents of violence between groups have occurred at the church's Zuurbekom headquarters involving shots fired, rocks thrown and cars smashed.
Three years ago, the church's finances came under scrutiny. The Sowetan newspaper reported there were allegations that some $6.5 million was missing from the church's accounts.
Local media reports also noted infighting among the church leadership since the death of its leader Glayton Modise in 2016.
That same year, police were called to the church following a shoot out between its members, according to the BBC.
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