Tanzania witchcraft protest turns violent, four killed

Four people were killed in south Tanzania in clashes between police and thousands of demonstrators angry at a spate of reported witchcraft killings, officials said on Thursday.

Protestors in the clashes on Wednesday were angry at what they said was a lack of police action to hunt down the killers of four women murdered in the area last week, their genitals reportedly sliced off by their attackers.

“Two people died after police opened fire in an attempt to stop the crowd from destroying public property, while others were killed during a stampede,” said regional commissioner Said Mwambungu of the clashes in Songea town.

Regional police chief Michael Kamuhanda said police had blocked protestors from destroying local government buildings.

While Mwambungu said the deaths of the women were associated with witchcraft, Kamuhanda dismissed the claims, saying the killings were cases of ordinary murder.

Kamuhanda urged people to remain calm while police continued their investigations.

The murder of the women has gripped residents of Songea, where bars and shops are now closing at dusk as people opt to remain indoors, fearing fresh attacks.

Tanzania has seen a wave of witchcraft killings since 2007, mainly of albinos, with body parts chopped off to be sold to witch-doctors who concoct charms which some believe bring good fortune and prosperity.

The four women killed were not believed to be albinos. — AFP

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