27 held after anti-Somali riot

2007-02-13 22:20

Port Elizabeth - Police used stun grenades to quell anti-Somali rioting in Motherwell on Tuesday, the latest in a wave of violence that has killed more than 40 immigrants from the eastern African nation.

Police arrested 27 people in Motherwell after dispersing an unruly crowd that was pelting Somali-owned shops with stones, according to Sapa news agency.

The unrest followed the shooting of a 15-year-old boy, who was wounded when an armed gang tried to rob a Somali shop.

Captain Ernest Sigobe told Sapa: "The Somalis allegedly opened fire on the men and a 15-year-old boy, who was not involved in the robbery, was shot and wounded."

More than 30 Somali shops were looted or vandalised after the shooting.

Attacks against Somalis have become more frequent across South Africa in the past year, especially in the Western and Eastern Cape, where many of the immigrants have settled and opened businesses.

'Spaza shop' successes

About 40 Somalis have been murdered in the Western Cape alone in the past six months.

The government and police in the Western Cape have been trying to determine whether the killings are part of a plan to drive out the immigrants.

The Somalis' success with "spaza shops" - small stores that sell soft drinks, snacks and clothes - has caused resentment among some locals, who accuse them of undercutting local shopkeepers and stealing trade and jobs.

Zimbabweans, believed to be the largest African immigrant group in South Africa, frequently complain that they are the targets of criminals and are harassed by police in Johannesburg and other major cities.