Durban - Wide-scale looting erupted across Durban’s townships on Monday night as tensions fuelled by anti-foreigner rhetoric boiled over. Several people have been killed and thousands more displaced as the violent attacks on the basis of ethnicity continued unabated. On Monday night, KwaMashu was electric as gangs moved from shop to shop. To date, the sporadic violence had only been seen in Durban’s southern basin. Hundreds of police officers, deployed to the city from all corners of KwaZulu-Natal, were stretched thin as thousands of people descended on foreign owned shops. As officers battled to protect foreign nationals who desperately tried to salvage what was left of their belongings, locals forced their way into shops and made off with food and goods before setting the shops ablaze. OverrunOfficers from the Public Order Policing Unit, specially trained to disperse and disarm violent crowds using non-lethal methods, were overrun as shops were looted in several sections of both Umlazi and KwaMashu at the same time. The policemen, clad in full riot gear and armed with shotguns, raced from section to section and waged bitter battles against looters who retaliated with bottles and rocks. Netcare911 paramedics were dispatched to the township with a police escort after a report that a child had been shot in the head. This incident could not be confirmed. The eThekwini Metro fire department is understood to have deployed several engines to KwaMashu alone, as looters torched shops and homes that belong to foreign nationals. Tear gas, stun grenadesThis came after a team of policemen were deployed to the city centre to disperse a group of men - several hundred strong - who had gathered at the Dalton Men’s Hostel. The group was prevented from damaging shop fronts when they were rebuffed by officers using tear gas, stun grenades and a water cannon. The upsurge in violence and criminality follows an effort from local and provincial government to reintegrate thousands of displaced foreign nationals back into their communities by encouraging them to return to their homes. The latest attacks are part of a tide of anti-foreigner sentiment which has spread to Durban’s largest townships.The spate of xenophobic violence, which has left four people dead and thousands displaced, follows reported remarks by Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini that foreigners should “pack their bags and go home”.The onslaught of xenophobia is reminiscent of similar attacks in 2008 which left over 60 people dead and scores wounded.