Report: Child sacrifice ring feared

London, England - British police fear African children are being trafficked to the UK to be sacrificed in witchcraft rituals, the BBC reported on Thursday, citing an unpublished Scotland Yard study.

The Metropolitan Police confirmed they had conducted research with London's African and Asian communities, aimed at reducing the risk of child abuse, for a report to be published later this month.

The study follows a number of high profile cases of abuse of African children in London.

Police said they spent 10 months running workshops in east London with local Asian and African communities debating issues such as female genital mutilation, forced marriage and faith-related child abuse.

The BBC said the report's most chilling findings came from London's African community, with allegations of witchcraft rituals being practiced in African churches.

"People who are desperate will seek out witchcraft experts to cast spells for them," the study said, according to the BBC.

"Members of the workshops state that for a spell to be powerful it required a sacrifice involving a male child unblemished by circumcision.

"They allege the boy children are being trafficked into the UK for this purpose," the BBC quoted the study as saying.

The BBC said the report says children could also be being brought to Britain as domestic and sex slaves.

Abuse cases

The police research was prompted by the 2003 death of 8-year-old Victoria Climbie from Ivory Coast, who died in London after one of Britain's worst-ever cases of child abuse.

Earlier this month, two African women were found guilty of child abuse after torturing an 8-year old Angolan orphan girl and planning to throw her into a London canal because they believed she was a witch.

And police are still trying to identify "Adam", a Nigerian boy believed murdered in a ritual killing, whose headless torso was found floating in London's River Thames four years ago.

John Azah, an independent adviser to the Metropolitan Police, said he feared much African child abuse could be going undetected.

"There is very grave concern by some of us that we are actually just beginning to touch the tip of the iceberg of what could be happening within communities and children being abused," he told the BBC.

Home Secretary Charles Clarke, commenting on the report, praised the work done by the Metropolitan Police to tackle human trafficking conducted by "very substantial criminal organizations".

He told the BBC that international liaison was needed to deal with the problem and that it would be discussed by G8 justice and interior ministers at a summit now taking place in Sheffield.

"The police in Britain, the Metropolitan Police in particular, are doing their very best. But they are strengthened if we can work well internationally," Clarke said.