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Corruption

South Africa launches investigation into death of man dragged by police van

South Africa has opened an investigation into the death of a taxi driver who was filmed handcuffed to the back of a police van and dragged. The incident has sparked outrage over police conduct.

The Independent Police Investigative Directorate anounced on Thursday that it had opened a murder investigation into the death of 27-year-old Mido Macia of Mozambique.

"We are investigating an incident involving the death of a man, allegedly at the hands of the police," the directorate's spokesman said. "We are shocked by the footage which has been released."

Video footage taken on cellphones by bystanders Tuesday shows Macia struggling with about half a dozen officers before being handcuffed to the back of a police van and dragged to the station in Daveyton, east of Johannesburg.

Recorded by onlookers

In the video, a horrified crowd looks on at the dragging, with some people warning the officers that they were being recorded.

Macia was found dead at the Daveyton police station less than two hours and 25 minutes after being taken into custody, according to local investigators. An autopsy revealed the cause of death to be head injuries with internal bleeding.

The police watchdog and witnesses said that two officers initially confronted Macia for parking his Toyota Avanza taxi illegally. Macia was trying to get his driver's license back from the police when an altercation occurred, according to witnesses. About half a dozen officers quickly arrived at the scene, some wearing stab vests and at least one brandishing a pistol.

Footage of the incident spread quickly online, and Daveyton residents marched on the police station Thursday after claiming to have been turned back by pepper spray the day before.

'Horrific'

South Africa's president condemned the killing.

"Members of the South African police service are required to operate within the confines of the law in executing their duties," President Jacob Zuma said in a statement. "The visuals of the incident are horrific, disturbing and unacceptable. No human should be treated in that manner."

Mozambique's government also expressed outrage.

"It is very said that a life was lost so stupidly," Foreign Affairs Minister Oldemiro Baloi told reporters in Mozambique's capital, Maputo.

No officers have been suspended yet, the department announced, but South African Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega expressed "deep concern" over the case and said it was being viewed "in a very serious light."

The investigation into Macia's death is the latest controversy involving the South African police, who have also been criticized for shooting dead 34 miners last August and the handling of the Oscar Pistorius case.

dr/mkg (AFP, AP)