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Xenophobic attacks in South Africa spread to downtown Johannesburg

Friday April 17 2015

An armed South African police officer stands

An armed South African police officer stands guard as foreign nationals close their shops in Primrose, about 15km east of Johannesburg, on April 16, 2015, after anti-immigrant violence in Durban left six people dead and spread to Johannesburg. AFP PHOTO | MUJAHID SAFODIEN 

AFP
By AFP
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JOHANNESBURG

Twelve people were arrested overnight as anti-foreigner attacks in South Africa spread to parts of downtown Johannesburg, police said Friday.

"Twelve suspects were arrested for trying to break into foreign-owned shops," said police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Lungelo Dlamini.

It was the latest incident in a wave of immigrant-targeted violence that began earlier this month in the port city of Durban, leaving at least six people dead.

According to local reports, the protesters from a local hostel demanded foreign nationals leave South Africa, setting cars alight and clashing with police.

No injuries were reported, said Dlamini.

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The scene remained tense Friday morning, with hostel-dwellers telling reporters they wanted immigrants to know they were not welcome in the country.

President Jacob Zuma has condemned the violence in parliament.

"No amount of frustration or anger can ever justify the attacks on foreign nationals and the looting of their shops," he said Thursday night.

Locals and African immigrants in South African often compete for scarce jobs, making them a target for violence and intimidation.

Early this year, foreign shopkeepers in and around Soweto, south of Johannesburg, were forced to vacate their premises after violence and looting broke out.

In 2008, 62 people were killed in xenophobic violence in Johannesburg townships.