Page last updated at 13:26 GMT, Monday, 16 March 2009

Burundi 'albino killers' arrested

Albino children in a school for the blind in Tanzania
Many people with albinism are living in fear in Burundi

At least eight people have been arrested in Burundi in connection with a trade in human body parts from people with albinism.

Those detained had fresh body parts in their possession, police say.

Witchdoctors in the region tell clients that potions made with albino body parts will bring them luck in love, life and business.

At least 10 albino people have been killed in Burundi in recent months and more than 40 in neighbouring Tanzania.

Prosecutor Nicodeme Gahimbare told the AFP new agency that those arrested were "simple farmers" acting as middlemen.

"They had albino bones with them, some of them still fresh," he said.

Mr Gahimbare said that three members of the gang had escaped into Tanzania but he said he was confident that the whole network could be dismantled within days.

Kazungu Kassim, the head of a Burundi albino association, said the authorities were now taking the killing of albinos seriously but more needed to be done.

"We urge the government to double efforts in protecting albinos, because what we are witnessing here is a planned extermination of the albino community," he said.

At least 200 people have been arrested over the trade in Tanzania but none have been convicted, raising fears that senior officials could be involved.

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