Four Die in Durban Xenophobic Attacks, South African Police Say

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Four people were killed after attacks on foreign-owned shops Thursday in the South African port city of Durban, police said.

One of the dead is a foreign national, two are locals and the fourth has yet to be identified, Thulani Zwane, a police spokesman, said by phone Friday. Three of the deaths were in the Chatsworth area and the fourth in Umlazi.

Leave has been canceled for some police and reinforcements from other parts of the country have been requested for South Africa’s third-largest city because of concerns that there will be more violence later Friday, Zwane said. “It’s all hands on deck,” he said.

South Africa is in the midst of the worst outbreak of anti-immigrant violence in more than half a decade. At least five people have been killed and more than 200 arrested in Gauteng province, the country’s economic hub that includes Johannesburg and the capital, Pretoria.

Police will intensify patrols later Friday in trouble spots and have increased their presence at some refugee camps in the Durban area where threats against foreigners were made, Zwane said.

“Most of the shops belonging to foreigners in trouble areas have been abandoned and now criminals are breaking in and stealing everything they can carry away,” Zwane said. No firearms were used in the four deaths, he said, without confirming how the victims died.

The wave of attacks and looting was triggered after a Somali shop owner shot and killed a 14-year-old boy during an alleged robbery in January. It’s the worst anti-immigrant violence since 2008, when about 60 people were killed and about 50,000 displaced from their homes.

As Africa’s most industrialized nation, South Africa attracts thousands of foreigners every year, seeking refuge from poverty, economic crises, war and government persecution in their home countries. While the bulk of them are from elsewhere on the continent, such as Zimbabwe, Somalia and Ethiopia, many come from Pakistan and India.

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