4-Day Death Toll Reported Up to 125 in Factional Battles in South Africa

from Associated Press

Rival factions waged running gun battles in the streets of two black townships, pushing the nationwide death toll to at least 125 in four days of savage fighting, officials said Tuesday.

Worst-hit were Tokoza and Katlehong, a pair of dusty, impoverished townships southeast of Johannesburg that have regularly erupted into urban warfare in recent years.

The fighting is part of the bitter power struggle between the African National Congress, the country's largest black group, and the Inkatha Freedom Party, a conservative Zulu movement.

Police found 45 bodies on the streets of the neighboring townships Monday night and Tuesday morning, bringing the death count for this area to 69 since the fighting began over the weekend.

Aside from the Johannesburg region, most of the deaths from the factional fighting have been in the eastern province of Natal.

The ANC, without offering evidence, said the fighting was orchestrated by forces opposed to multiracial elections that would end apartheid. Black and white politicians agreed last week to hold the nation's first all-race elections next April.

"It is an attempt to blackmail the country, with the blood of our people, into delaying the advent of democracy," the ANC said.

Many of the victims were shot, indicative of the increase in guns in black areas. Until recently, much of the fighting was carried out with knives, spears and machetes.

Political violence has claimed more than 10,000 black lives nationwide since 1990 and has slowed talks on ending apartheid.

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