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Nigeria recalls diplomats from S. Africa over attacks on immigrants

South Africa has said it is committed to maintaining good ties with Nigeria after Abuja recalled its diplomats to Pretoria because of attacks on foreigners. Lately, anti-immigrant attacks have increased in South Africa.

The Nigerian government said Saturday it had asked its ambassador in Pretoria and consul general in Johannesburg to return to Abuja due to a surge in violent attacks on foreign nationals in South Africa.

According to a Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement, the attacks on immigrants began three weeks ago, killing seven people and creating "fear and uncertainty in the mind of African migrants."

The two diplomats were asked to return to Nigeria for consultations, the statement added.

Reacting to Abuja's decision, South Africa's department of international relations said on Sunday that it remained "committed to a strong bond of friendship and bilateral relations with Nigeria."

"If this action is based on the incidents of attacks on foreign nationals in some parts of our country, it would be curious for a sisterly country to want to exploit such a painful episode for whatever agenda," the department said.

Nigerian lawmakers have demanded compensation from the South African government for the damaged properties of their citizens. A Nigerian rights group also contacted the International Criminal Court to complain about the attacks.

Meanwhile, South African President Jacob Zuma has condemned the rising attacks on immigrants in his country. Troops were deployed last week in two cities to quell the violence.

Several countries, including China, Nigeria and Zimbabwe, have criticized Pretoria's failure to protect foreigners from armed mobs.

shs/rc (AP, Reuters)