Seven men burned to death by mob for witchcraft in Malawi

Mob burns seven men to death for witchcraft in southern Malawi

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

An albino child sits outside a courtroom in Ruyigi, eastern Burundi.

A mob in southern Malawi burned seven men to death for allegedly possessing human bones for use in witchcraft, Malawian police said on Wednesday.

The seven were "found in possession of human bones and the mob took it upon themselves to burn them with petrol," Kirdy Kaunga, head of the Nsanje district police, told AFP.

A traditional chief said local suspicions were aroused as a result of the movements and telephone conversations of one of the seven, who was found to have a bag containing the bones.

"He was chased and arrested," said chief Tengani, who uses only one name.

"The man is said to have confirmed that his bag contained human bones and that's when the mob began rounding up the seven and burned them, one by one."

Images from the scene showed the men being burned on a patch of grass surrounded by locals, while some children are looking on.

Police arrived after the incident took place on Tuesday in Nsanje, the southernmost district of Malawi. There have been no arrests yet.

James Kadazera, police spokesman for the southern region, said experts would conduct a postmortem on the bones in the bag "to establish whether they are albino humans or not".

Albinos have white skin and yellow hair as a result of a genetic disorder.

They are regularly killed for their body parts, which are used in witchcraft rituals in several African countries including Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania.

"We also want to find out who actually torched these people," Kadazera added, saying police condemned "mob justice" where members of the public apply its own law.

He said that identification of the victims was proving difficult due to their severe injuries.

At least six albinos have been killed in Malawi since a surge in attacks which began in December 2014, although UN claimed the number of murders as nine.

Last summer, Malawi launched an investigation into the root cause of the albino murders. In addition, the government had held awareness events to protect the albino community.

In September, a teacher was arrested on suspicion of trying to sell an albino schoolgirl for $10,000. A number of suspects are awaiting trial in connection with albino-related crimes, including murder, abduction and possession of their bones.