Source: The Associated Press
Date: 11/20/99
Report: Suspected Witches Killed

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania (AP) - At least 34 people, most of them elderly women, have been killed this year in western Tanzania as suspected witches, a newspaper reported.

The Kiswahili language newspaper Nipashe (Inform Me) on Friday quoted Tabora Provincial Commissioner Stephen Mashishanga as saying that most of the victims were elderly women whose eyes turned red from years of standing over cow dung cooking fires.

Although villagers often accuse red-eyed women of being witches, investigators and sociologists say this is often used as an excuse by family members to get rid of women in order to seize their property.

Mashishanga, who is also chairman of a regional security commission, said the killings were a result of villagers' belief in witchcraft.

He said witchcraft-related deaths during the period from January to October has increased by 13 over the figure for the previous year when 21 deaths were reported.

A report earlier this year by Tanzania's Criminal Investigation Division said at least 101 killings linked to witchcraft had been reported in the first eight months of the year throughout the East African nation.

Police have also linked the killings to the cross-border trade in human skin with neighboring Zambia, where some people believe that human skin protects a home from demons and spirits.


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