At least 12 people have been killed when police opened fire on miners staging a protest at a platinum mine in South Africa, according to the Reuters news agency.
South African police opened fire and dispersed a crowd of striking miners at the Lonmin mine in the North West province on Thursday after issuing an order to the protesters to lay down their machetes and sticks.
The incident, captured by Reuters, drew condemnation from the main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, social media users and evoked comparisons with apartheid-era brutality.
"Today is unfortunately D-day"
- Dennis Adriao, police spokesman
Jacob Zuma, South Africa's president, said he was "shocked and dismayed at this senseless violence. We believe there is enough space in our democratic order for any dispute to be resolved through dialogue without any breaches of the law or violence".
"We call upon the labour movement and business to work with government to arrest the situation before it deteriorates any further," Zuma said in a statement, in what appeared to be one of the bloodiest police operations since the end of white-minority rule in 1994 in Africa's biggest economy.
Dennis Adrio, a police captain and spokesman for the officers at the mine, declined to immediately comment. South African newspaper, The Sowetan reported on Thursday that police officers had earlier said that negotiation with leaders of the rival union Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) had broken down, leaving no option but to disperse them by force.
"Today is unfortunately D-day," police spokesman Dennis Adriao was quoted as saying.
Journalists at the scene said several of those shot were laying on the ground and were not moving.
Earlier on Thursday, Lonmin said in a statement that striking workers would be fired if they did not appear at their shifts on Friday.
"The striking [workers] remain armed and away from work,'' the statement read. "This is illegal.''
The unrest at the Lonmin mine began on August 10, as some 3,000 workers walked off the job over pay in what management described as an illegal strike.
Those who tried to go to work on Saturday were attacked, management and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said.
On Sunday, the rage became deadly as a crowd killed two security guards by setting their car ablaze, authorities said.
By Monday, angry mobs killed two other workers and overpowered police, killing two officers, officials said.
Officers opened fire that day, killing three others, police said.
The protest and ensuing violence, which began a week ago, have killed at least 10 people there, including two police officers.