ARMED robbers opened fire on three terrified volunteers at a South African sanctuary in a horror hijacking.
Two of the trio – which includes a young student from the UK – were struck by bullets as the gang fired at their car at least four times to force it off the road.
Jamie Pyatt News LtdThe trio were targeted as they travelled in a Suzuki Chery[/caption]
Jamie Pyatt News LtdThe young women had signed up for a £3,750 Photography and Wildlife Conservation Course with African Impact[/caption]
The pair suffered injuries after they were shot through the doors of their Suzuki Chery during the journey to the Kruger National Park to work with conservation and wildlife.
The hail of bullets also smashed the windscreen and windows, showering the petrified passengers with flying glass.
The masked thugs then tore open the sliding doors and jumped in the driver’s seat before taking the hysterical girls on a hellish ride.
They drove the students, who were taking part in a photography internship, to a secluded spot near White River, 25 miles from the Kruger gates in Mpumalanga Province.
The three gunmen stole the tourists’ luggage, camera equipment and laptops worth thousands of pounds as well as stripping them of their mobile phones, cash, valuables and jewellery.
The victims were then abandoned on the dark dirt track while two of the tearful girls were bleeding from their bullet wounds.
The uninjured volunteer then took the wheel of the Suzuki and drove to find help, pulling over at the Timrite Yaverland sawmill.
She then flagged down nearby security guards who raised the alarm, before emergency services rushed to the scene.
Paramedics stabilised the two students who had been shot while all three were treated for cuts from the flying glass.
The trio were taken to the Nelspruit Mediclinic at Mbombela where they were also treated for shock following the traumatising incident.
One victim has been named as Anneka Kleinsmiede, 21, who is believed to be of Dutch origin but who went to school in England and is said to be studying at an English university.
The other shot student Merijne Boelhouwer, 21, is from Utrecht in the Netherlands studying biology and has volunteered to work with animals in conservation abroad before including in Peru.
All three of the victims had signed up for a month-long £3,750 Photography and Wildlife Conservation Course with African Impact.
The company organises volunteer internships throughout Africa and regularly welcome students from around the world.
The two students who sustained gunshot wounds have now returned to their volunteering.
South African police are treating the shocking ambush on June 30 as attempted murder.
Cops confirmed “numerous” shots were fired at the volunteers vehicle that was seemingly heading to their accommodation outside the Kruger National Park.
The latest chilling attack in the area is a blow to the local Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency, who are desperate to protect vital tourism.
John Meintjes of ACS Security, whose guards at Timrite Sawmills were approached by the victims shortly after they were hijacked, said: “They were hysterical and had been shot at.
“They told my staff they had been robbed by three gunmen and two were shot in the leg and the other hit by glass and the guards gave first aid while waiting for an ambulance.
“The girls were very worried the gunmen would come back again but the guards were in control but the robbers had taken everything of value they had in their car.”
It is believed the three girls would have had a large amount of belongings with them as they embarked on their month-long internship run by African Impact.
They would have been working under a professional photographer learning the skills of how to capture wildlife through the lens, as well as editing and presenting tips.
African Impact says it provides volunteers with “life changing experiences” throughout Africa.
A South African Police spokesman said: “A Suzuki parked at the sawmill a few minutes later and 3 white females came out of the vehicle crying for help and said that they had been shot by unknown suspects.
“They took all their belongings and there were two victims who had been shot and were taken to hospital with serious injuries and it is being treated as attempted murder.
“No arrests have been made as yet of the suspects who were in a silver VW Polo.”
Greg Bows, Founder of African Impact, said: “This was obviously a horrifying ordeal for our volunteers to go through while they were enjoying some free time a few hours’ drive from our project base.
“Understandably they, their parents and the whole group were left deeply shocked by what happened.
“As an organisation our focus is on helping support the three volunteers involved and their families as best we can, as well as the whole project group, including providing professional trauma support to anyone who needs it.
“We continue to work closely with the police and other relevant authorities as they investigate.
“I’m pleased to report that in the weeks since it happened, the volunteers have returned to the volunteer base and have got back into their volunteering work as soon as they felt ready.”
Katie told a pal: “We are lucky to be alive, it could have been much worse.”
The gang, who also used a VW Polo, were never caught.
Jamie Pyatt News LtdThe girls were en route to the Kruger National Park for a month-long £3,750 photography course[/caption]