Page last updated at 15:24 GMT, Wednesday, 23 April 2008 16:24 UK

Rise in ritual killings in Gabon

Map of Gabon

There has been a sharp increase in ritual killings in Gabon ahead of local elections on 27 April, say campaigners.

The Association to Fight Ritual Crimes says there have been 12 deaths during campaigning - far more than usual.

The bodies of young children have been found with various body parts missing and gruesome discoveries have been made on Gabon's beaches, the group says.

It is believed some politicians order the killings in the hope that they will secure political power.

The BBC's Clare Spencer in Libreville says fear of reprisals from politicians is the reason why no one has yet been prosecuted for such crimes.

The politicians drink the blood of their victims
Parfait Edou Engouang

But the mayoral candidate, Andre Dieudonne Berre, denies the practice is widespread.

"We must be careful about these accusations," he says, "because people get very emotional."

"Maybe there are a few isolated cases, but it is not true to say that it is a general practice."

ALCR founder Jean-Elvis Ebang Ondo started the organisation after the bodies of his own son and a friend were found on the beach near the capital, Libreville, three years ago.

"These politicians drink the blood and eat the bodies of their victims," says Parfait Edou Engouang from the association.

"They do this as a ritual to keep themselves in power," he said.

The ALCR says it wants the international community to try to put more pressure on the government to find the killers.

Country profile: Gabon
17 Oct 06 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Gabon
17 Oct 06 |  Country profiles

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