A group of female criminals is on the loose, with churches and congregants being targeted for their valuables and cash, police have said.

National police spokesperson Paul Nyathi said over the weekend that a group of women travelling in a getaway car sneaked into a church in Harare, afterwards stealing bags containing money and other valuables while people were in prayer.

“People must be alert to who sits next to them in church while they are praying. If they see visitors, it would be ideal for them to have security keeping an eye on them,” Nyathi said.

“We are appealing to anyone who can help us nab this group as a matter of urgency because people should freely worship their Lord.”

Of late, more than 4 000 robbery cases involving women using taxis and kombis have been recorded by police countrywide.

In February, a woman and two men who robbed unsuspecting travellers they offered transport while wearing the Zimbabwe National Army regalia were jailed for eight years after being convicted of several counts of robbery.

The woman, Nyarai Mutumwa (23), and her two male accomplices committed a spate of robberies along the highway while masquerading as army officers. She was jailed for an effective two years and eight months in February this year.

Last year police arrested several armed robbers working with female accomplices in well coordinated syndicates where the gangs terrorised residents in and around Harare.