Policemen proceed with a search for drugs and weapons during a South African Police and South African army raid in Johannesburg on April 21, 2015. South African soldiers deployed overnight to tackle gangs hunting down and killing foreigners after at least seven people died in a wave of anti-immigrant violence. AFP PHOTO / MARCO LONGARIMARCO LONGARI/AFP/Getty Images
Military presence quiets violence in South Africa
02:36 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

NEW: South African troops help police conduct raids in Jeppestown

Defense minister says police are spread too thin trying to prevent attacks on immigrants

Seven people have been killed in recent violence against poorer immigrants

Johannesburg CNN  — 

South African troops deployed Tuesday evening as part of a new government effort to stop deadly anti-immigrant violence.

Their first target: the Johannesburg suburb of Jeppestown, where xenophobic violence broke out on Friday. South African police raided a Jeppestown hostel Tuesday while troops secured the perimeter.

Earlier, Defense Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula announced the plan to deploy an undisclosed number of troops to areas where police are spread too thin while trying to curb deadly attacks against immigrants.

“This intervention is not an indictment on the police. … We are coming in because they need that support,” she said after visiting Johannesburg’s Alexandra township, one area where mobs have attacked immigrants from other African nations and looted their shops – ostensibly based on the belief that immigrants are taking South Africans’ jobs.

Seven people have been killed in recent violence against poorer immigrants, many from South Africa’s neighbors.

Xenophobic killing caught by photographer

Much of this month’s violence happened in the port city of Durban, where at least two foreigners and three South Africans were killed after mobs with machetes attacked immigrant shops. Thousands of people took temporary shelter at refugee centers or police stations as a result, according to aid group Gift of the Givers.

Similar violence happened late last week in Johannesburg, where immigrant-owned shops were looted or destroyed.

The attacks came as residents accused immigrants of taking their jobs and committing crimes. The unemployment rate in South Africa is 25%, according to government figures.

The United Nations said the attacks began in March after a labor dispute between citizens and foreign workers.

What’s behind the xenophobic attacks in South Africa?

CNN’s Brent Swails reported from Johannesburg. CNN’s Jason Hanna reported and wrote from Atlanta.