Malawi arrests 140 in clampdown after 'vampirism' killings

LILONGWE (Reuters) - Police in Malawi said they arrested 140 suspected members of vigilante mobs that have targeted people accused of vampirism, clamping down after a wave of attacks in which at least nine have been lynched.

The mob attacks began in mid-September in four districts in southern Malawi, where belief in witchcraft is widespread.

This week they spread to Blantyre, the country's second-biggest city, where mobs torched one person and stoned another to death on Wednesday.

"We have so far arrested 140 people we suspect are behind the mob killings in Blantyre and other districts and the investigations are still going on," Lexon Kachama, inspector general of Malawi Police, told reporters.

20 PHOTOS
Daily life in Malawi
See Gallery
Daily life in Malawi
Children look on as they walk in the outskirts of Lilongwe on March 11, 2016. / AFP / ARIS MESSINIS / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE (Photo credit should read ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
MALAWI - 2016/05/26: Investment business on the market in the small town of Zomba in Malawi. (Photo by Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images)
A boy carries a basket in the outskirts of Lilongwe on March 11, 2016. / AFP / ARIS MESSINIS / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE (Photo credit should read ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Malawi, Lilongwe, Chambwe Primary School, Pupils in the classroom about 40 kilometres west of Lilongwe, learning comfortably on desks. Through UNICEF'S Kids-In-Need of Desks (KIND) project UNICEF has managed to provide 420 desks to Chambwe Primary School. Standard 4 female teacher, Ndawona Kawaza teaching her class arithmetic. The education system in Malawi has to a larger extent failed to attract teachers, especially female teachers to teach in rural areas. Lack or shortage of basic amenities l
MALAWI - 2016/05/26: Fresh produce for sale on the market in the small town of Zomba in Malawi. (Photo by Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images)
MALAWI - 2016/05/26: Men playing the game of Mancala, which is an ancient African game played with stones, along a road on the Zomba Plateau in Malawi. (Photo by Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images)
MALAWI - 2016/05/26: Women selling potatoes along a road on the Zomba Plateau in Malawi. (Photo by Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images)
MALAWI - 2016/05/25: The road from Blantyre to Zomba in Malawi. (Photo by Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images)
MALAWI - 2016/05/25: Portrait of a Malawian man walking along the road from Blantyre to Zomba in Malawi. (Photo by Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images)
A boy holds his sister in the outskirts of Lilongwe on March 11, 2016. / AFP / ARIS MESSINIS / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE (Photo credit should read ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Women carry wood in the outskirts of Lilongwe on March 11, 2016. / AFP / ARIS MESSINIS / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE (Photo credit should read ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Children play football in the outskirts of Lilongwe on March 11, 2016. / AFP / ARIS MESSINIS / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE (Photo credit should read ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Children play in the outskirts of Lilongwe on March 11, 2016. / AFP / ARIS MESSINIS / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE (Photo credit should read ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Malawi, Blantyre, The 11 year old defilement victim poses with her mother in front of their house. This young girl is in Standard 6 and her father Lloyd Kambwemba says since the incidence happened, her performance has gone down and she displays signs of indifference towards education.
Malawi, Blantyre, Bvumbwe Young Offenders Rehabilitation Centre in Thyolo district where young offenders, convicted and remanded live. It was home to 267 as of mid-March 2012. Director and officer in charge office
Malawi, Lilongwe, Chambwe Primary School, Pupils in the classroom about 40 kilometres west of Lilongwe, learning comfortably on desks. Through UNICEF'S Kids-In-Need of Desks (KIND) project UNICEF has managed to provide 420 desks to Chambwe Primary School.
Malawi, Mzimba district, Chilumba, Chilumba Community Based Childcare Centres (CBCC). smiling children playing on wooden swing
Men rest as they dry their washed clothes on the Saga beach, at Lake Malawi, on July 17, 2011. Lake Malawi remains unspoilt and one of Malawi's' biggest tourist attractions but with recent fuel shortages in the country less people have been visiting. The lake takes up one fifth of the land surface of Malawi, being 575 km long and 85km long at its widest point. The beautiful lake has existed since about 500 BC. AFP PHOTO / ALEXANDER JOE (Photo credit should read ALEXANDER JOE/AFP/Getty Images)
Malawi children find play with a piece of string 20kms outside Lilongwe on July 14, 2011. Malawi kept mum on July 27, 2011 on the US suspension of a $350 million grant after last week's deadly protests, but local media lashed President Bingu wa Mutharika over the latest blow to the poor nation. AFP PHOTO / ALEXANDER JOE (Photo credit should read ALEXANDER JOE/AFP/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Police were doing everything possible to contain the situation and ensure the violence did not spread to other cities and townships, he said.

Information minister Nicholas Dausi told Reuters that the government will put soldiers on the streets to stem the vampire rumours that have resulted in nine deaths.

"We are deploying the army in townships and districts affected to help police calm down the situation and save lives," Dausi said.

President Peter Mutharika has also been visiting parts of the country affected by the violence.

The United Nations and U.S. embassy have blacklisted several districts in Malawi as dangerous zones for staffers and nationals. Earlier this month the UN pulled staff out of two areas in southern Malawi.

(Reporting by Mabvuto Banda; Editing by John Stonestreet and Hugh Lawson)

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.