JOHANNESBURG, SEPT. 13 -- Six men rampaged through a crowded commuter train today, shooting, stabbing and slashing passengers and hurling dozens through the doors and down steep embankments.
In this goriest incident of intensifying violence in South Africa's black areas, police said at least 26 were killed and more than 100 injured. Rescue workers gathered bodies strewn along a five-mile stretch of track between Johannesburg and the black suburb of Soweto.
This was the third such attack on black commuter trains in the Johannesburg area this week, and the second incident of indiscriminate killing in 24 hours.
Wednesday night, four masked men driving a minibus unleashed a wave of terror in downtown Johannesburg, firing randomly at pedestrians. They killed three and wounded at least eight, all of them black.
Witnesses to many attacks prior to these, in what has become a virtual civil war in black townships, have reported seeing whites with blackened faces, or faces covered with face masks, among those attacking bands.
In tonight's train massacre, a helicopter reporting on rush-hour traffic for a local radio station landed beside the track and the reporter gave listeners a vivid account of the scenes of carnage as victims were loaded into his aircraft to be ferried to a hospital.
"There must be 60 people lying here, some with broken necks, legs and arms, some shot, some with huge gashes where they have been hacked, and there's one man here in front of me whose lips have been slashed off," the radio reporter said.
He described how the cries of other victims could be heard coming from surrounding bushes in the gathering darkness.
Witnesses recounted how the six men ran through the coaches shortly after the train left Denver station, near Johannesburg, shooting and slashing indiscriminately at homeward-bound commuters. People hurled themselves through train windows to escape the attackers, the witnesses said.
The attack continued for at least five minutes as the express train passed through two stations before finally pulling in at one of Soweto's main stops.
Then, as hysterical passengers spilled onto the station platform, a second group of armed men waiting there attacked again, killing and injuring others.
Law and Order Minister Adriaan Vlok expressed shock at the train massacre and vowed that the police would do all in their power to track down the bands of killers.
But anger in the black community is mounting against the police. Many township residents claim police are collaborating with white extremists and with Zulu migrant workers, who support Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Inkatha Movement and are battling followers of Nelson Mandela's African National Congress.
Wednesday night, four policemen were killed in a series of incidents in Soweto, while a raid on a Zulu workers' hostel in Tembisa township, northeast of Johannesburg, left 26 dead.
The seesaw of violence also produced another Inkatha raid Wednesday night, when men from migrant workers' hostels set fire to an estimated 1,000 shacks in a squatter camp on the edge of Thokoza township, southeast of here. Thousands of homeless people took refuge in the grounds of a nearby hospital.
People from the squatter camp claimed that a number of white men with blackened faces were among those raiders and that one of them was killed in the fighting. They said his body was taken away by police this morning. A police spokesman, Col. Frans Malherbe, denied it.
In another incident today, police arrested a white man for allegedly throwing a gasoline bomb into a bus used by blacks.