- Associated Press - Monday, February 1, 2016

JOHANNESBURG (AP) - Paramedics on duty were robbed at gunpoint in two major cities in South Africa in recent days, raising concerns about the safety of emergency responders in a country with a high crime rate.

Two paramedics from ER24, a medical care group, were robbed Friday night in the Khayelitsha area of Cape Town after going to a home to help a person reported to be ill, the group said in a statement.

One of the paramedics said a gunman “jumped into the back of the ambulance and held a firearm to the front of his forehead while demanding his cellphone,” ER24 said.

In a separate incident, authorities in Johannesburg said a gunman robbed three municipal paramedics who were treating a patient in an ambulance early Thursday.

Paramedics are “quite an easy target” because they often rush into potentially risky areas at night, ER24 spokesman Russell Meiring said Monday.

Paramedics are working with police to get escorts for some assignments, and are also appealing to the public to keep them safe by reporting any suspicious activity, Meiring said.

Also Thursday, an ER24 ambulance was broken into and vandalized in Durban on South Africa’s east coast.

“We do not take sides and it makes it extremely difficult for paramedics and emergency workers to assist the community” when the paramedics feel threatened, the group said in a statement.

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