Johannesburg: South African authorities arrested 11 men in a joint police and army raid on a hostel in downtown Johannesburg as part of a crackdown to end attacks on immigrants, officials said Wednesday.
The raid late on Tuesday came hours after Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said the army was being deployed as a "last resort" to support the police after weeks of unrest that have left at least seven people dead.
As a helicopter hovered overhead, dozens of soldiers surrounded the workers` hostel before police stormed the building.
Officers moved from floor to floor conducting searches as residents lay face down in corridors.
"Eleven suspects were arrested in Jeppe hostel for possession of dagga (cannabis) and stolen property, aged between 24 and 49," police spokesman Solomon Makgale said.
Mobs of South African men in Johannesburg and in the port city of Durban have targeted migrants from Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique and other African countries over the past three weeks.
The government stepped up its response by sending in troops to back the police.
The South African National Defence Force said in a statement that it would "not stand by and watch whilst innocent lives are being threatened".
Immigrants are often the focus of resentment among poor South Africans, who face chronic job shortages with youth unemployment at over 50 percent.
The spate of attacks has revived memories of xenophobic bloodshed in 2008, when 62 people were killed, tarnishing South Africa`s post-apartheid image as a "rainbow nation" of different groups living in harmony.