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Malawi rounds up 'vampire'-killing mob

October 21, 2017

Police in the southern African country have detained 140 people linked to mob attacks on people accused of being "bloodsucking vampires." Nine people have been killed after rumors of evil spirits spread.

Malawi street scene
Image: picture-alliance/Bildagentur-online

Authorities in Malawi rounded up dozens of people linked to attacks on people they accused of being vampires. On Firday, Malawi police inspector general Lexon Kachama said further arrests were expected.

Kachama said 140 people were being held as authorities attempted to regain control of spiraling hysteria in southern pockets of the country that followed rumors of "blood-suckers" on the prowl.

In the latest case, a man with epilepsy was burned to death on Thursday in Blantyre, Malawi's second-largest city. Another person there was stoned to death.

The large number of arrests took place after angry mobs clashed with police and blocked main roads in the city.

Read more: In Ghana witchcraft accusations put lives at risk

In total, nine people have been killed over the past month in mob attacks on people who local residents say were trying to obtain human blood for voodoo rituals.

Vampire hearsay

Rumors of vampires allegedly originated in neighboring Mozambique and spread across the border to a country where education standards are low and where belief in witchcraft is widespread.

Malawi's President Peter Mutharika has appealed for calm and vowed that his government "will offer protection from these alleged blood-suckers."

Read more: Malawian albinos under threat

Authorities have imposed a nighttime curfew and say they are keen to ensure the mob attacks don't spread to other cities. The United Nations — which is involved in food aid and agricultural programs in the country — has pulled its workers out of some areas for safety reasons. 

Police say thieves and robbers have taken advantage of the fear in some communities and have stepped up their harassment of local residents by mounting illegal roadblocks.

mm/aw (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)