ARUSHA, Tanzania (AA) – Tanzania police have arrested 225 witchdoctors in connection with a recent wave of attacks targeting the country’s albinos.
“As many as 97 arrested witchdoctors have already appeared in court to answer – among other charges – unlawful possession of animal parts,” police spokesperson Advera John Bulimba said in a statement.
“We found some of the arrested witchdoctors possessing items like warthog teeth, lizard skin, monkey tails, ostrich eggs, lion skin, bird claws and mule tails,” Bulimba added.
“The arrest comes as a result of countrywide police operations against unlawful traditional healings,” she added.
Albino attacks in Tanzania are associated with witchcraft, as albino body parts are believed in certain circles to have magical properties.
At least 75 people with albinism were killed in Tanzania since 2000, according to official figures. About 34 others have survived attacks but lost parts of their bodies that had been chopped off by the attackers.
Last year, the Tanzanian government imposed a ban on witchdoctors in the country in an attempt to reduce the attacks.
Bulimba said that the past three months saw thorough police investigations and operations in the country’s 30 regions as an effort to combat albino attacks and killings.
According to the spokesperson, the arrested witchdoctors are from regions that are notorious for attacks against albinos, like Tabora, Geita, Mwanza, Simiyu, Shinyanga, Kagera, Katavi and Rukwa.
“The police campaign would target the entire network of those who are involved in albino attacks and killings including the attackers, traders and witchdoctors,” Bulimba asserted.
“We (police) are appealing to religious leaders, community or traditional elders, politicians, journalists and the entire public to engage in the ongoing awareness campaign against superstitious beliefs,” she appealed.
“These beliefs are not only leading to albino attacks and killings, but also holding back the country’s’ development,” she added.
Last week, President Jakaya Kikwete ordered the formation of a national committee to tackle the albino attacks.
In his statement after meeting people with albinism last week, Kikwete assured the nation that his government is committed to fighting to the end the albino attacks and killings, which give a negative portrait of the country in the international community.
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