Witch-accused women burned

Dili, East Timor - THREE women accused of being witches were killed and burned along with their house in East Timor.

The three women, aged 70, 50 and about 25, were killed on Saturday evening in Liquica, about 40km west of the capital Dili.

“The three women were killed before they were burned along with their house,” Liquica district police investigation unit head Geraldo Soares said.

“They are Bui-dau, 70, Flora, 50, and another (unidentified) woman about 25 years old,” he said from the crime scene.

Mr Soares said they had been accused of being witches and were attacked by unknown people.

United Nations police were also investigating the murders.

“A forensic team has been dispatched to conduct further analysis at the crime scene,” UNPOL spokeswomen Monica Rodrigues said in Dili.

There were spates of arson attacks during unrest in 2006 but this is believed to be the first involving witchcraft accusations in the overwhelmingly Roman Catholic country.

Unrest in April and May last year led to the deaths of at least 37 people and forced about 15 per cent of East Timor's population to flee their homes.

Stability has largely returned to the fledgling nation following the arrival of foreign peacekeepers at Dili's request and the installation of a new government in July headed by Prime Minister Jose Ramos-Horta, a Nobel Peace Prize winner