Dozens detained as xenophobic attacks simmer

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A police officer protects the shops of foreign nationals in the Jeppestown.

JOHANNESBURG - South African police detained more than 30 people overnight as xenophobic violence simmered around the economic hub Johannesburg, officials said on Saturday.

Anti-foreigner violence that erupted in Durban several weeks ago has so far left at least six people dead, spreading to Johannesburg, displacing thousands and sparking alarm at the United Nations and in neighbouring countries.

Overnight, small groups attacked shops in several areas around Johannesburg, police said.

"More than 30 people were arrested last night. At this stage the situation is calm but we plan to increase our deployment," said police spokesman Lungelo Dlamini.

"They are going to be charged for public violence, malicious damage to property, house breaking and theft," he said.

Police had to use rubber bullets to disperse the looters in Alexandra, an impoverished township north of the city, he said.

Several thousand foreigners have fled their homes to shelter in makeshift camps amid the violence, and neighbouring Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique announced plans to evacuate their citizens.

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