Image: Kenya witchcraft
AFP - Getty Images
Residents of the western Kenyan village of Nyakeo peep through the window of a house where a person was killed by villagers on suspicion of being involved in witchcraft activities.
updated 5/21/2008 3:37:09 PM ET 2008-05-21T19:37:09

A group of up to 300 young men have burned to death 11 people suspected of being witches and wizards in western Kenya — in some cases slitting their victims' throats or clubbing them to death before burning their bodies, officials said.

The gang moved from home to home through two villages, identifying their victims by using a list with names of suspected witches and wizards and the kind of spells they were believed to have cast on the community, said Ben Makori, a local councilor.

"The villagers are complaining that the (suspected) wizards and witches are making the bright children in the community dumb.... These (suspected) witches are not doing good things to us," Makori told The Associated Press on the phone.

Deputy police spokesman Charles Owino said the gang hunted down the eight women and three men in the western Kenya villages of Kekoro and Matembe. Most of the victims were between 70 and 90 years old, Owino said.

Senior administrator Njoroge Ndirangu said the gang hunted down their victims Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

Victims slashed or clubbed
In some cases the gang pulled the victims out of their homes, slit their throats or clubbed them to death, said a police officer, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

The victims were then thrown back into their homes, which the gang had already set on fire, the officer said. He said 36 houses were burned.

Another police officer, Mwaura Njoroge, said the body of a victim burned to death in her house was, "reduced to something so small, you cannot tell which is the leg and which is the arm."

"How can they (the young men) prove that a person is a wizard? It is likely that the people who committed these killings had personal vendettas against their victims," Njoroge said.

"These people identified who is to be killed by accusing their victims of bewitching their sons and daughters," said Ndirangu, the commissioner in charge of Kisii Central district, where one of the villages is located.

Ndirangu said that residents are superstitious and have often targeted suspected witches and wizards, but this week's attack was the most shocking in recent years.

The police officer who spoke on condition of anonymity said investigators had little hope of making progress because the villagers have refused to identify the people who carried out attacks.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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