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Page last updated at 16:48 GMT, Wednesday, 21 May 2008 17:48 UK

'Witches' burnt to death in Kenya

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Eleven elderly people accused of being witches have been burned to death by a mob in the west of Kenya, police say.

A security operation has been launched to hunt down villagers suspected of killing them in Kisii District.

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

The area 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.

'Witches meeting'

Anthony Kibunguchy, the provincial police officer, told the BBC that the eight women and three men were all aged between 80 and 96 years old.

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Police at the murder scene

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

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 have gone into hiding, fearing for their lives.


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