S. Africa Killings Race-Based?

A black officer went on a shooting rampage at the South African Tempe Military Base Thursday, killing six white soldiers and a white civilian before he was gunned down by colleagues.

The 28-year-old lieutenant opened fire with an assault rifle as a group of soldiers of the First South Africa Infantry Battalion was on its way to a target practice session.

A major, a captain and four other soldiers died in the hail of bullets. Five other white soldiers were injured, one critically.

Other members of the South African National Defense Force eventually shot and killed the attacker, who had served in the army for several years. "He had to be shot because he would have killed more people," a police spokeswoman said.

"He just started shooting. Then we armed and fired back," one of the wounded soldiers told Defense Minister Patrick Lekota from his hospital bed.

Police said they were exploring the possibility the shooting rampage was racially motivated, but Lekota said it was still too early to speculate on the reason behind the killings. "It will be wrong to speculate. Anybody who tries to suggest ahead of the inquiry that [the killings were racially motivated] will be wrong," he said.

South Africa's top soldier, General Siphiwe Nyanda, said the shooting rampage showed racial integration remained far from complete. "We think integration has progressed successfully over the years but this is one incident which indicates that there are difficulties and problems which we have not quite surmounted," he said.

Brigadier-General Hans Heinze commander of Tempe, one of the first military bases in South Africa to integrate former African National Congress freedom fighters with the apartheid Defense Force after the end of white rule in 1994, called for calm. "Let us keep calm, let us allow the case to be thoroughly investigated before we draw any conclusions," he said.

Despite working hard at integration, South Africa remains wracked by racial tension five years after all-race elections brought Nelson Mandela and the ANC to power.

The most common hostilities are between white farmers and black farm laborers, but many schools are also divided and the integration of national sports teams remains a sensitive issue.

CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Reuters Limited contributed to this report