April 14, 2015 / 3:33 PM / 2 years ago

South Africa anti-foreigner violence spreads to center of Durban

Children play amongst the remnants of a fridge in front of a looted store which is owned by foreigners in KwaMashu, north of Durban, April 13, 2015.Rogan Ward

DURBAN, South Africa (Reuters) - A wave of anti-foreigner violence that has killed four people in and around the South African city of Durban in recent days spread to the town center on Tuesday, local media reported, with police firing rubber bullets to disperse angry crowds.

Protests were held by both immigrants and locals, some brandishing hatchets and machetes, footage from Local TV news channel eNCA showed.

Shops owned by foreigners in Durban, a key port on South Africa's Indian Ocean coast, have been looted and burnt during the violence.

"We want this message to go for the entire human race. To know that the black people from foreign Africa are being burned alive," Abdurahman Hakizimana, a Burundian living in Durban, said as heavily armed police in riot gear stood nearby.

Scattered crowds of protesters were still milling around various points in the city center as darkness fell, according to a Reuters witness.

Senzo Mchunu, the premier of KwaZulu Natal province where Durban is situated, told eNCA that "additional police have been brought" to the province.

Local media said the army had not been called in despite mounting public questioning of the police's ability to handle the disturbances.

In 2008, more than 60 foreigners were killed in similar unrest as locals vented frustrations over various issues, particularly a lack of jobs in the continent's most advanced economy.

South African unemployment is officially around 25 percent but is widely believed to be much higher.

Reporting by Rogan Ward; Writing by Ed Stoddard; Editing by Robin Pomeroy

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