Page last updated at 16:19 GMT, Wednesday, 9 July 2008 17:19 UK

'Ritual killing' rescue in Ghana

By Will Ross
BBC News, Accra

Akwesi Buabeng
Ghanaian police hope to reunite Akwesi Buabeng with his family

Police in Ghana are trying to reunite a teenage boy with his family after rescuing him from what they suspect was a ritual killing.

Two men have been given lengthy prison sentences for trying to sell the 16-year-old boy for $20,000 (10,000).

Police believe he would have been killed for his body parts to be used for witchcraft.

Having rescued the boy, the police have issued a photo of him in order to try to find his relatives.

The photo published by the police shows Akwesi Buabeng staring into the camera looking a little bewildered.

Akwesi is lucky to be alive after two men took him from the Volta region to Sefwi-Asawinso in the west of Ghana and tried to sell him.

The regional crime officer, Dennis Abade, said that after a tip-off, a policeman posed as a potential buyer.

Having been duped by the police, the men - both in their twenties - were arrested, put on trial and are now serving 20-year prison sentences.

Human head

The police suspect Akwesi would have been killed and his body parts used for witchcraft either in the west of Ghana or across the border in Ivory Coast.

Traditional healers are widely consulted in Africa and some people believe the use of body parts for a ritual can bring good luck and protect against disease or misfortune.

Marilyn Amponsah-Annan from the Ministry of Women and Children's Affairs said such cases were not common - partly because the police have received training to counter human trafficking.

She said people were also being more vigilant and were asking questions when they felt suspicious.

The police confirm that in the last two months there have been two other cases in the same area of Ghana - one involving the attempted sale of a human head.

In some cases relatives are privy to the crime and so if a child is then rescued it is not always easy to reunite them with their families.

Country profile: Ghana
25 Jun 08 |  Country profiles

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