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Last Updated: Saturday, 11 February 2006, 09:19 GMT
Voodoo head found in air luggage
Myrlene Severe and a US official getting into a car

US immigration officials have arrested a Haitian woman after baggage screeners found a human head in her luggage at a Florida airport.

Myrlene Severe, 30, has been charged with failing to declare the head on a customs form and transporting "hazardous material".

She arrived at Florida's Fort Lauderdale airport on Thursday on a flight from Cap Haitien in north Haiti.

Ms Severe said that the head was to ward off evil spirits, officials said.

"Severe stated that she had obtained the package, which contained a human head, from a male in Haiti for use as part of her voodoo beliefs," the US Attorney's Office said in a statement.

'Hair and skin'

A spokesman for Miami's immigration and customs agency told the AFP news agency that the head was not simply a skull.

"It had teeth, hair and skin, and quite a lot of dirt," she said.

Ms Severe, a US resident, appeared in court on Friday in Fort Lauderdale. She could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

The practice of voodoo, an Afro-Caribbean religion whose roots go back thousands of years, is still widespread in Haiti.

The Haitian government officially recognised voodoo as a religion in 2003.

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