At least five people have been killed in southern Malawi after being accused of behaving like vampires. The victims were lynched to death by groups of vigilantes following claims that they had consumed human blood as part of magic rituals.

Witchcraft beliefs are widespread in rural Malawi, one of Africa’s poorest nations. It is believed that rumours of vampirism originated in neighbouring Mozambique and later spread to Malawi, sparking violence.

President Peter Mutharika condemned the killings, which occurred in the Phalombe and Mulanje districts over the past weeks.

“I am deeply concerned with the development, I don’t know who started [the rumour] here in our country but I understand that it originated from Mozambique,” he said during a rally on 10 October, according to local news site Nyasa Times.

“After sending some delegates, the rumours of vampirism and mob justice is slowly dying down. But I will be there to address the community too,” he added.

Local reports say the number of people killed is of seven.

The spate of killings prompted authorities to issue a nighttime curfew to prevent ‘anti-vampire’ vigilantes from carrying out further violence, the BBC said.

Violence prompted the UN to pull out its staff from the two districts.

“These districts have severely been affected by the ongoing stories of blood sucking and possible existence of vampires,” the UN Department on Safety and Security (UNDSS) said in a statement quoted by Reuters.

The report said mobs searching for vampires had been mounting roadblocks in the district, raising security concerns. It is believed that other organisations have also temporarily suspended activities.

Culled from IBT