Police have announced as many as 140 people have been arrested after a series of mob attacks on suspected ‘vampires’ in Malawi, Africa.
At least nine people have been killed after being suspected of being vampires, including an epileptic man who was burned to death.
There are also reports of people being stoned to death in the country’s second largest city, Blantyre.
According to police, the situation has spiralled out of control after rumours began spreading of ‘bloodsuckers’ on the loose and it’s becoming increasingly hard to keep the situation in hand.
Sky News report there have been increasing incidents of vigilante justice, with mobs putting up illegal road blocks and lynching the suspected supernatural creatures – the situation is becoming so severe there are legitimate security concerns in the country.
The searches for the so-called-vampires are becoming increasingly destructive too, with government health officials, teachers and even traditional leaders saying their homes have been destroyed after speculation circulated they were harbouring some ‘vampires’.
Malawi President, Peter Mutharika, has appealed for calm, saying:
My government will offer protection from these alleged bloodsuckers.
The violence is so serious, places in the country have been declared as danger zones for those in Malawi working with the United Nations and the US embassy.
A UN safety report on the Phalombe and Mulanje areas of the country said:
These districts have severely been affected by the ongoing stories of bloodsucking and possible existence of vampires.
Belief in witchcraft is widespread in the country – just last year a gang reportedly burned seven men to death for witchcraft.
The group were said to light their victims on fire using petrol.
The Nyasa Times reported police officer, Kirby Kaunga, as saying:
We have not yet made any arrests, we are currently investigating the matter.
There’s a lucrative black market for the trading of body parts in the region, with a massive demand for the parts from albinos – who are thought to possess special powers.
According to the International Red Cross, a ‘complete set’ of albino body parts can get as much as £50,000 – this includes the limbs, genitals, ears, tongue and nose.
Police chief, Lexon Kachama, said of the recent murders:
The biggest challenge is that thieves and robbers have now taken advantage of the situation and are mounting illegal roadblocks at night in order to harass people.
He said of the murders last year, the stories of albino murders first arose in the neighbouring country of Tanzania, but the problem was spreading quickly through Malawi.
He said it’s important to fight the criminality both professionally and ‘aggressively.’