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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 January 2008, 13:33 GMT
Kenyans hand back 'cursed' loot
Looters raid a shop
Looters in Kenya took advantage of the mayhem to raid shops
The threat of witchcraft has scared looters into returning goods they stole during unrest which followed last month's disputed Kenyan elections.

TV stations broadcast pictures of people returning to places they robbed in the coastal city of Mombasa carrying beds, sofas and other items.

A police commander confirmed the reports and said the rumours of witchcraft had made his job "easy".

One woman said the curse had prevented people from going to the toilet.

"I am telling the truth. I am not lying. There are some people who are not able to pass urine nor faeces," she told Kenyan broadcaster NTV.

Other looters attributed "mystery" illnesses to the curse.

Whether ghosts exist or not, our work has been made easy
Mombasa police commander
Widespread looting followed a breakdown in law and order after President Mwai Kibaki was sworn in after being declared the winner of the disputed poll.

But word spread around Mombasa that a timber merchant had brought in a community elder to place a curse on the thieves.

"He gave us 10 days to return the timber. I will return them at night because people really laugh at us when we do so during the day," an unidentified man told the TV station.

Other victims of looters have also reportedly followed suit.

John Joash confessed to stealing a bed during the mayhem.

"I am fearful for my life because of the ghosts, that is why I decided to return the property," the AFP news agency quotes him as saying.

A local police commander welcomed the looters' second thoughts.

"Whether ghosts exist or not, our work has been made easy. I wish there were ghosts all over the country," he said.

The BBC's Odhiambo Joseph in Mombasa says people turned to witchcraft when they realised the police were powerless to prevent their livelihoods being destroyed.

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