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 / Updated  / Source: NBC News

JOHANNESBURG — South Africa deployed the army on Tuesday in "volatile areas" to curb a wave of anti-immigrant violence that has killed at least seven people this month, the defense minister said.

The latest wave of anti-immigrant attacks began almost three weeks ago in parts of the coastal city of Durban and quickly spread to Johannesburg, South Africa's commercial capital.

Defense Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said soldiers were being sent to "volatile areas," which included the rundown Johannesburg district of Alexandra and parts of Kwa-Zulu Natal. "There will be those who will be critical of this decision but the vulnerable will appreciate it," Mapisa-Nqakula told reporters in Alexandra.

South Africa has been criticized by foreign governments — including China, Nigeria and Zimbabwe — for failing to protect foreigners as TV stations broadcast images around the world of armed mobs looting immigrant-owned shops.

President Jacob Zuma's government came under further pressure when disturbing images appeared in local media Sunday of men beating and stabbing a Mozambican man to death in broad daylight. Mapisa-Nqakula said a Zimbabwean couple was also shot at in the Alexandra on Monday night but they survived.

— Reuters