ANTANANARIVO (AFP) – Police in Madagascar killed at least 14 people on Monday (Aug 29) and wounded 28 others as they opened fire on what they called a lynch mob angered at the kidnapping of an albino child.
The shooting took place on Monday morning in the southeastern town of Ikongo, about 90 kilometres south-east of the capital Antananarivo.
“The gendarmes… fired on the crowd,” Mr Jean-Brunelle Razafintsiandraofa, a lawmaker in the town of Ikongo, told AFP.
Doctor Tango Oscar Toky, chief physician of the Ikongo hospital, told AFP “nine people died on the spot” and another five died later in hospital.
Nine of those injured were in a critical condition, he said.
Mr Razafintsiandraofa said an angry crowd gathered outside the local police station demanding officers release four kidnapping suspects arrested on Sunday so they could inflict mob justice.
Around 500 protesters armed with blades and machetes “tried to force their way” into the station, a police officer involved in the shooting told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“There were negotiations, (but) the villagers insisted,” the officer said over the phone, adding police first fired smoke grenades and shots in the air in an attempt to disperse the crowd.
“They continued to force their way through… We had no choice but to defend ourselves,” the police officer said.
The kidnapping took place last week, according to Mr Razafintsiandraofa, a Member of Parliament for Ikongo district.
No further details were immediately available.
Revenge attacks are common in Madagascar.
In February 2017, a mob of 800 people barged into Ikongo prison in search of a murder suspect they intended to kill.
They overpowered guards and 120 prisoners broke out of jail.
In 2013, a Frenchman, a Franco-Italian and a local man accused of killing a child on the tourist island of Nosy Be were burned alive by an angry crowd.
Some sub-Saharan African countries have suffered a wave of assaults against people with albinism, whose body parts are sought for witchcraft practices in the mistaken belief that they bring luck and wealth.
Albinism, caused by a lack of melanin, the pigment that colours skin, hair and eyes, is a genetic condition that affects hundreds of thousands of people across the globe, particularly in Africa.
Under The Same Sun, a Canada-based charity working to combat discrimination, has been logging cases of violence across Africa.
It ranks Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania as the countries where such attacks are most prevalent.
Madagascar, a large Indian Ocean island country, is ranked among the poorest in the world.