Hostels Raided in South Africa Clampdown

CNN, May 22, 2008

South African police and military units raided three hostels Thursday in a clampdown on xenophobic attacks that have left more than 40 dead, authorities said.

Twenty-eight people were arrested in the “extremely successful” first joint operation, according to a statement from the South African police and South African National Defence Force.

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Police said 42 people have been killed in the violence, which began last week in Johannesburg’s Alexandra Township and has been concentrated in the city’s poorest areas.

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The country has also seen a disturbing throwback to the 1980s apartheid-era lynching tactic of “necklacing,” which was widely used in the townships at the time.

Used on suspected informants, the “necklace” is a car tire, filled with petrol, put around the person’s neck and set alight.

The victims are mainly immigrants and refugees from other parts of Africa, including Zimbabwe, where a devastated economy has sent at least two million people across the border in search of a better life.

Some say the attacks stem from a long-standing feeling among locals that the number of immigrants in South Africa results in shortages of jobs and essential needs.

Inadequate housing, a lack of running water and electricity, the rising prices of food, and escalating crime—nearly 20,000 people were slain in South Africa last year—add to the resentment. Video Watch analysis of reasons behind xenophobic attacks »

South Africa’s army has been patrolling riot-hit townships to restore calm as the country counts the cost of the xenophobic attacks.

Brigadier General Kwena Mangope of the South African Department of Defense said troops were assisting the South African Police Service, the national police.

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Some say that millions have recently fled to South Africa from Zimbabwe because of violence there since the county’s stalled election.

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