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Police patrol South Africa riot zone

  • Story Highlights
  • An estimated 13,000 people fled homes after violence targeting foreigners
  • Attacks have been concentrated in Johannesburg's poorest areas
  • Police arrest more than 200 people after at least 22 are killed
  • Zimbabweans who have fled their own country are driven from squatter camps
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JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (CNN) -- Police armed with rubber bullets were patrolling neighborhoods in Johannesburg on Tuesday in an effort to quell a recent spree of violence aimed at foreigners that police say has killed 22 people and displaced an estimated 13,000.

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A crowd armed with clubs, machetes and axes rioted on the outskirts of Johannesburg on Tuesday.

Many of the victims are Zimbabweans who have fled repression and dire economic circumstances in their homeland.

Evidence of the violence was seen in smoke rising from burned homes in one Johannesburg neighborhood. Locals angry about the rising number of foreigners arriving in South Africa had set homes ablaze.

Firefighters said they had fought more than 100 such blazes since Thursday.

Standing outside a row of charred homes, Diamond Minnaar said there is a solution for foreigners.

"Most of them just have to go back to their country and leave us in peace," Minnaar said. "That is the only solution. Or they are just going to get killed. Look at how many shacks have burnt down."

The attacks and looting have drawn condemnation from South African officials and other African leaders. iReport.com: Are you there? Send photos, video

The violence began a week ago in Johannesburg's Alexandra Township, police say, and has been concentrated in the city's poorest areas.

"People are angry because they are unemployed, poverty-affected people struggling for basic needs every day," said Dean Christopher Barends, a local Lutheran minister. "This will explode into something."

One person victimized was Pascoal Sendela Gulane, a Mozambican man, who said gangs broke into his home and stole his belongings.

He fled to a church with his family and is now living with his children in his car on the church's property. For him and many others, churches and police stations have become safe havens. Video Watch footage of the attacks »

On Monday, South African President Thabo Mbeki called for an end to the violence.

"We dehumanize ourselves the moment we start thinking of another person as less human than we are simply because they come from another country" he said in a statement.

"As South Africans, we must recognize and fully appreciate that we are bound together with other Africans by history, culture, economics and, above all, by destiny. I call upon those behind these shameful and criminal acts to stop! Nothing can justify it."

He has called for an investigation into the violence.

Also Monday, the Nelson Mandela Foundation issued a statement condemning the "senseless violence."

South African police have arrested more than 200 people in connection with the violence for offenses including rape, murder, robbery and theft.

Police director Govindsamy Mariemuthoo said that at least one foreigner was burned alive over the weekend, while others saw their houses torched, their shops looted and their possessions stolen.

Tuesday there was a large police presence in the neighborhoods were the violence had occurred, according to a CNN producer on the scene.

Despite the police presence, sporadic looting still took place in several townships east of Johannesburg.

Mbuso Mthembu, provincial manager at the Red Cross office in Johannesburg, said that the number of people fleeing is continuing to grow and that violent attacks seem to be spreading into other areas.

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His organization has made an emergency appeal for people to donate 1 million rand (about $135,000) to help support the estimated 13,000 who have fled their homes. Many had to flee quickly, leaving all their belongings behind, Mthembu said.

"We have delivered blankets, kids clothing, baby formula," he said. "But we need more."

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