'WE'LL KILL THE SOMALIANS IF THEY COME BACK'

Cape Argus, 19 March 2008

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Somalians who were recently driven out of Worcester by rampaging locals have been threatened with death if they return to live in the area. A small group, accompanied by members of the Somali Community Board of the Wtsern Cape and escorted by police, returned to Worcester yesterday to salvage what possessions had not been destroyed when a crowd of residents went on the rampage almost two weeks ago. Trouble started on March 7 after a botched robbery ended in the death of a 19-year-old local resident who was allegedly shot by a Somali shop owner during a scuffle. A group of about 150 angry residents then moved from the spaza shops to wholesale shops, driving out foreign shop-owners. A police inspector said 23 shops had been damaged and more than 100 shop owners had been left homeless. Piles of rubble, a concrete foundation and the facade of a shop were all that were left after the group tore them down. One resident, who did not want to be named, said the fired-up crowd had been largely made up of "youngsters". She said: "Dit was baie bedrywig, die kinders jag sommer die polisie manne." (It was very busy, the children were even chasing the policemen). Sheik Amir Hussein from the Somali Community Board said the situation was "not that bad" this week. "The community is not very tense about us visiting. Local community members are willing to engage us so we can now sit down to discuss these matters," he said. But clusters of women standing nearby said they did not want the Somalis to return. One woman said: "We don't want them here; they are taking our business away. If they come back we will kill them." Somalian Abdi Kaluma described how her shop and her home used to look. "I was crying so much when I heard what was happening. We don't know what to do; even if we come back, we have nothing to start over with," she said. Last week the affected refugees demanded that the government repatriate them to their country. The group have approached UCT's Law Clinic, requesting the help of human rights lawyer Fatima Khan. Some of the former residents said this had been the second attack. The first happened two years ago, but had not been as devastating. Meanwhile, two foreigners were killed in Atteridgeville, near Pretoria yesterday when residents turned on immigrants in the township. Several people were hurt and scores of businesses owned by foreigners were burnt. Somali businessman Noor Ali, 25, was shot three times by gunmen hiding among a group of Atteridgeville and Saulsville residents marching on the township's police station yesterday. Moments after the killing, thousands went on the rampage, attacking foreigners in the Brazzaville, Saulsville, Phomolong and Vergenoeg informal settlements. Another foreigner, believed to be Zimbabwean, was shot while trying to fend off rioters. It is believed that he was also stabbed with broken bottles. Local residents said he had been seen stealing a bottle of beer, but his employees said he had been trying to stop a thief. A police spokesperson said no arrests had been made.