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S.Africa extremist guilty of Mandela death plot

By AFP

JOHANNESBURG (AFP) - A leader of a South African extremist group accused of plotting to kill Nelson Mandela and to overthrow the government in a series of bombings was Thursday found guilty of high treason.

Mike du Toit is the first person found guilty in a trial that started nine years ago to prosecute the 2002 bombings, public broadcaster SABC said.

Prosecutors say Du Toit is the first person found guilty of high treason in post-apartheid South Africa, a crime that used to carry a life sentence until capital punishment was abolished.

He is among 20 men facing charges ranging from murder to terrorism and high treason. The verdict has been read since Monday and is likely to continue for weeks at the High Court in Pretoria.

Known as the Boeremag -- which is Afrikaans for "Boer Force", referring to the descendants of the first Dutch colonisers -- the men are said to be behind nine bomb blasts that shook the Johannesburg township of Soweto in October 2002.

Dozen of people were injured in blast and one person killed.

The bombings were said to be aimed at creating instability and panic to allow the group to unseat the ruling African National Congress (ANC) and chase blacks and Indians from the country.

Their charges also relate to an alleged plot to kill Nelson Mandela in 2002.

In 2006, two of the men escaped from the Pretoria High Court but were later re-captured. Two of the accused have since died.

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