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Tuesday, 3 April, 2001, 15:54 GMT 16:54 UK
Tanzania skin trade arrests

By Christine Otieno in Dar es Salaam

Tanzanian police say they have arrested a gang they believe to be responsible for a series of gruesome murders of children and adults.

Tanzania came into the spotlight two years ago when dead bodies were found in bushes where they had been dumped after having their entire skin expertly removed.

All these deaths took place in Mbeya region in southern Tanzania.

Ezekiah Swila was 13 years old when his body was found skinned at Kisinga village. Three more cases followed in Ilege and Mbozi, both districts in Mbeya.

The region was placed on alert and a major police investigation began.

The deaths and the missing skin were attributed to witchcraft by local residents and police.

But good news has at last came to the region with the police announcement that the ringleader and 12 members of his "skinning" gang had been arrested and charged with murder.

Witchcraft

Regional Police Commissioner for Mbeya Laurian Sanya told the BBC that a man known as Adamu was the ringleader.

He said that witchcraft lay behind the killings, but he stressed that the skin from the victims was not sold locally in Tanzania but taken out of the country.

Commissioner Sanya said that police investigations discovered that after leaving Mbeya the skins were taken to Lusaka, Zambia and then on to the Democratic Republic of Congo before reaching their final destination in West Africa.

He did not single out a particular West African state that received the human skins.

The prices of the human skins according to the local press, range between $2400 and $9600, apparently depending on the age of the victim.

Police say they are confident that the arrests will lead to the end of the skin trade.

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See also:

21 Jun 99 | Africa
Tanzania's deadly skin trade
02 Oct 00 | Africa
Earthquake in southern Tanzania
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