Hundreds of black squatters clashed in Johannesburg's troubled eastern Katlehong township overnight, torching up to 100 homes and leaving at least 14 people dead and an unknown number injured, police said Tuesday.
Hundreds of refugees sought safety from the fighting in the township's Natalspruit hospital, medical staff said.Many Xhosa-speaking squatters from Katlehong's Holomisa Park section allegedly swarmed into the adjoining Xhosa-occupied Mandela Park late Monday, attacking people at random with spears, clubs, and hatchets and prompting fierce reprisals, witnesses said.
Police patrols came under attack several times with AK-47 rifles and stones while trying to quell the violence, officers reported, but no policemen were injured.
"This fighting appears to have involved Xhosa against Xhosa. . . . It looks like some kind of intertribal conflict," police spokesman Maj. Dave Bruce said.
He noted 14 bodies had been found in the area by early Tuesday but said patrols could still find more corpses.
"We have no idea how many have been hurt," he said. "Hundreds were involved in this fighting."
Black factional violence has usually pitted the predominantly Xhosa supporters of the African National Congress against the exclusively Zulu following of the Inkatha Freedom Party.
"These Holomisa Park people, they just came running into our area and attacked us," a Mandela Park resident was quoted by local radio as saying.
"We fought back very hard," another resident said.
Up to 100 shacks were torched, many razed, in the ensuing battles, police at the scene reported.