KwaZulu bloodshed mounts

On South Africa's scenic south coast of KwaZulu-Natal, in the Shobashobane settlement, yesterday begat a Yuletide of blood.

As Shobashobane, a stronghold of President Nelson Mandela's African National Congress (ANC), woke to a sunny Christmas morning, hundreds of supporters of the rival Inkatha Freedom Party of Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi descended. Armed with spears, axes and guns, the raiders attacked at 8am, torching 80 homes and looting 15 others. By the time they finished shooting and stabbing, at least 14 people, including a baby, were dead, and 20 were wounded.

"It's a sick way to spend Christmas," said police superintendent Jeff Cromhout after soldiers and special police units arrived to restore calm.

Yesterday's attack was the third mass killing on KwaZulu-Natal's south coast in 11 days. At least 28 people were slaughtered in the three massacres, signalling a big jump in political violence in South Africa's most troubled province.

The killings have been blamed on a turf war between the ANC and Inkatha in the run up to local elections in March. Police suspected that yesterday's raid was aimed at pushing ANC supporters out of the area.

However, the brutal modus operandi of the killers have also raised suspicions that a so-called "third force" alliance of Inkatha extremists and right- wing security officials may be responsible for the bloodshed.

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