The Hawks say last night's shootout between its multi-disciplinary team and seven suspects of the Ngcobo police murders took place in what is suspected to be a cult.
In what the directorate has described as a major breakthrough, the team fatally shot seven suspects, arresting another 10 in the process.
It says investigators are currently combing the crime scene.
The Hawks' Hangwani Mulaudzi says the open landscape where the suspects were hiding and the presence of women and children at the suspected cult made the operation even more difficult.
“The area was an open space where everybody could see you hence we had to do this in the dark. We got information that there were many children and women in that church, we suspect it’s a cult.”
He says investigators believe more suspects may be arrested.
Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Police has congratulated the Hawks on the breakthrough.