Languages
Page last updated at 16:52 GMT, Thursday, 22 May 2008 17:52 UK

Kenyan arrests for 'witch' deaths

Police officers moving a dead body
The attackers moved from house to house with a list of suspected witches

Nineteen people have been arrested in Kenya in connection with the burning of 11 people accused of being witches.

A police spokesman told the BBC that those arrested may not have been involved in the killings but possibly incited the attacks.

Eight women and three men, aged between 80 and 96, were burned to death in the western Kisii district on Wednesday.

A security operation was launched to hunt down the villagers involved. The area is now reported to be calm.

The Kisii district has witnessed similar attacks in the past when people suspected of engaging in witchcraft have been killed or ostracised.

But our reporter says that this is a surprisingly large number of people to be attacked at the same time.

Deputy police spokesman Charles Owino told the BBC:

"You may find that they could not have been involved directly in the killing, but if you have evidence that they were involved in war cries, then they will have another offence of inciting," he said.

He said those proven to have been involved in the attack would be charged with murder.

The police are guarding against revenge attacks, the police spokesman said.

'Witches meeting'

The BBC's Muliro Telewa in the region says the gang had a list of the victims and picked them out individually.

The mob dragged them out of their houses and burned them individually and then set their homes alight, our correspondent says.

Advertisement

Police at the murder scene

Residents have been ambivalent about condemning the attacks because belief in witchcraft is widespread in the area, he says.

But local official Mwangi Ngunyi spoke out against the murders.

"People must not take the law into their own hands simply because they suspect someone," he told AFP news agency.

Villagers told reporters that they had evidence that the victims were witches.

They say they found an exercise book at a local primary school that contained the minutes of a "witches' meeting" which detailed who was going to be bewitched next.

The victim's families are in hiding, fearing for their lives.


Are you in the area of Kisii District? What do you think of these killings? Send us your comments using the form below.

Name
Your E-mail address
Town & Country
Phone number (optional):
Comments

The BBC may edit your comments and not all emails will be published. Your comments may be published on any BBC media worldwide.





SEE ALSO
Kenyans hand back 'cursed' loot
08 Jan 08 |  Africa

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific