Sapa, 22 May 2008

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Free State police were investigating possible xenophobic violence in Villiers on Thursday after shops of Pakistani citizens were damaged by a group of youths. Police spokesperson Superintendent Motantsi Makhele said 22 people were arrested on Wednesday night on charges of public violence. "We are investigating charges of public violence currently but also looking into the possibility of xenophobia." Makhele said police were called to Qalabotjha about 4.30pm on Wednesday after reports that a group of people were throwing stones at the tuck shop of a Pakistani citizen. When police arrive on the scene stones were thrown at them and three vehicles were damaged. Makhele said the group were dispersed but at about 7.30pm on Wednesday the same shop was set alight. Later the same night a tuck shop, rented by another Pakistani, was damaged by people throwing stones. The vehicle of a community member who was helping police, trying to stop the stone throwing, was also damaged.