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Army sent in to quell attacks on foreigners

Updated: 2015-04-23 08:33
By Agence France-Presse in Johannesburg (China Daily)

South African soldiers were deployed overnight to tackle gangs targeting and killing foreigners after at least seven people died in a wave of anti-immigrant violence.

Dozens of military police surrounded a central Johannesburg hostel housing mainly South Africans that police raided as a helicopter hovered above.

Inside the hostel, police moved from one floor to another conducting searches while residents lay facedown in the corridors.

On the streets of the neighborhood, soldiers stood in groups of six, positioned within a few meters of each other.

Police in the economic capital of Johannesburg and in the port city of Durban had in recent days struggled to contain mobs who have targeted migrants from Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique and other African countries over the last three weeks.

The government has vowed to crack down on the unrest, but the decision to put soldiers on the streets overnight Tuesday to Wednesday came after two nights of relative quiet in both cities.

"We come in as the last resort, the army will serve as a deterrent," Defense Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula told reporters earlier on Tuesday.

"Now we are deploying because there is an emergency."

The spate of attacks has revived memories of xenophobic bloodshed in 2008, when 62 people were killed in Johannesburg's townships, tarnishing South Africa's post-apartheid image as a "rainbow nation" of different groups living in harmony.

The South African army was deployed to restore order in the 2008 unrest, and was also used against violent strikers in 2012.

Mapisa-Nqakula said troops were being sent to volatile areas in Johannesburg, and also to KwaZulu Natal province, of which Durban is the capital.

The South African National Defense Force said in a statement that it would "not stand by and watch whilst innocent lives are being threatened".

Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini denied on Monday he had triggered the outbreak of xenophobic hatred in a speech last month when he blamed immigrants for rising crime and said they must leave South Africa.

 Army sent in to quell attacks on foreigners

South African police officers and troops of the South African Defense Force raid the Jeppie hostels in the Jeppestown district of Johannesburg late on Tuesday. South African soldiers will be deployed to tackle gangs hunting down and killing foreigners, officials said on Wednesday, after at least seven people died in a wave of anti-immigrant violence. Mujahid Safodien / Agence France-Presse

(China Daily 04/23/2015 page12)

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