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Police searching for illegal weapons killed eight people in shootouts in a black township notorious for violence, a police spokesman said Thursday.

Police said they came under fire twice while conducting weapons raids in the impoverished KwaMashu township of north Durban in KwaZulu-Natal province, on the country's eastern coast.The area is known as a stronghold of the Zulu nationalist Inkatha Freedom Party, which has engaged in years of clashes against the African National Congress.

But residents told Associated Press Television the violence Wednesday night stemmed from fighting among migrant workers apparently aligned with Inkatha.

People from the Ngutu faction drove off those from the Mahlabathini faction on Monday, residents said. The Mahlabathini group then notified police that the Ngutu faction had illegal weapons, leading to the raid, according to the residents.

When the 17 officers first came under fire, they shot back, killing six people, Warrant Officer Vishnu Naidoo said. One officer was wounded by gunfire, Naidoo said.

The raids continued and another shootout erupted, with police killing two more people, Naidoo said. In all, 13 people were arrested and eight weapons seized.