South African police say there were about 17,000 murders in the country in the year ending in March, reflecting a 5 percent increase over the previous year.

While South Africa's murder rate has shown an overall decline in the past decade, analysts say the annual crime statistics released Friday show that violence is one of the most serious problems facing the country.

Gen. Riah Phiyega, the national police commissioner, said murder and some other kinds of violent crime are difficult for police to stop because most cases involve people who know each other.

The main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, said the latest data shows that an average of 47 murders happen daily in South Africa and likened the rate of killing to that of a country at war.