LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — Nigeria is recalling its top diplomats in South Africa because of "ongoing xenophobia targeting foreigners," according to a government statement.
Seven people have been killed in the attacks in South Africa that began three weeks ago. Property has been destroyed and the violence "created fear and uncertainty in the minds of African migrants," according to a Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement.
Nigeria's ambassador in Pretoria, South Africa's capital, and the consul general in Johannesburg, the economic hub, will return to Nigeria for consultations, said the statement.
The statement, dated Saturday, noted that some South Africans organized peace marches and that President Jacob Zuma condemned the attacks as did Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini, whose comments allegedly incited the violence.
Nigerian legislators have called for the South African government to pay damages and a Nigerian rights group has complained to the International Criminal Court.
South Africa on Sunday criticized the Nigerian government's action as an "an unfortunate and regrettable step," in a statement issued by the Department of International Cooperation and Cooperation.
The South African government said it and a wide range of civic organizations had been "decisive and unequivocal in condemning and rejecting the attacks on foreign nationals" and that through its "interventions, relative calm and order has been restored."
Separately, in a statement Sunday congratulating South Africa on the April 27 anniversary of its first post-apartheid elections in 1994, Liberia's foreign affairs ministry lamented that South Africa was going through "a difficult period." The statement said President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, was praying Zuma would "find the courage and strength" necessary "to lead his people in the right direction in order to overcome this dark chapter."
AP writers Christopher Torchia in Johannesburg and Jonathan Paye-Layleh in Monrovia, Liberia, contributed to this report.