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19 suspects arrested over ‘witch’ lynching

NAIROBI, May 22 – Police have arrested 19 suspects over Tuesday’s killing of 15 people who were burnt to death on suspicion of practicing witchcraft in Kisii district.

The victims, many of them elderly men and women were hacked to death and others burnt alive in their houses at Matembe and Ngokoro villages in Marani division.

Such attacks are common in the region but authorities have ranked the latest attacks as one of the worst in recent times.

“It is one of the worst incidents in the recent times in Kisii district, but we are managing the situation. Our officers are pursuing the suspects,” said Michael Barasa, the officer in charge of police administration in Nyanza Province.

Deputy Police Spokesman Charles Owino told Capital News that major security patrols were intensified in the area Wednesday night, leading to the arrest of some of the suspects.

“19 suspects have been arrested and the manhunt is still on,” he said.

“Those arrested are still being interrogated and they may appear in court to face a series of charges, ranging from murder, arson among others.”

He said many of those arrested were inciting members of the community to regroup and flush out more suspected witches.

Nearly 500 people were left homeless after the mob torched 120 houses during the orgy of violence, which police have linked to the Sungu Sungu vigilante group.

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The displaced families, many of them women and children were camping at the Nyamira and Rioma Police stations for fear of attacks from members of the vigilante group.

The deputy police spokesman said security forces in the region had received information about the planned revenge attacks.

“Our officers are on high alert to avert any planned attacks. The patrols will continue to protect the lives and property of the people in Kisii, particularly those targeted for lynching,” Owino said.


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