Blantyre — Criminal gangs nicknamed “albino hunters” and armed with machetes, knives and axes are striking fear into people living with albinism in Malawi, abducting and often killing their victims in broad daylight and in the dead of night, prompting police to announce a shoot-to-kill policy.
The latest victim of the brutal attacks is a nine-year-old boy with albinism from Malawi’s eastern district of Machinga. His mother Edna Cedrick tried to rescue her son when two attackers abducted him last Friday.
A police officer from Machinga district, Isaac Ndala, confirmed the abduction, adding that the kidnappers injured the boy’s mother.
The abduction happened while her husband was away on a fishing trip at the nearby Lake Chilwa. There have been no reports of the boy being found.
The audacious kidnapping is not an isolated case, as abductions, attempted killings and brutal murders have prompted some police authorities to brand albinos an “endangered species” in Malawi.
According to the police, by now about 50 criminal offences have been committed against albinos and the number might even be higher as some incidents may not have been reported to police.
Besides the use of violence, the police say all sorts of tricks are used by criminals involved in a syndicate that is hunting for albino body parts in Malawi, including the use of parents and relatives to catch their prey.
Meanwhile, some community members, frustrated with pace of justice, have started taking the law in their own hands.
Last Tuesday, a mob burnt to death seven alleged members of an albino hunter gang found with human parts including bones in Southern Malawi’s border district of Nsanje.
Police confirmed the incident.