Riots flare in Blantyre over suspected satanic practices

Limbe, Malawi - There were running battles on Wednesday in the high-de nsity Bangwe Township in Malawi's commercial capital, Blantyre, as angry residents ran riot over suspicions that some Malawians of Asian descent were practising satanism that results in frequent fatal road accidents in the area.

Christopher Botomani, a resident in the area, told PANA that a woman saw a coloured man, who worked for Siku Transport, one of Malawi's major trucking company owned by Malawians of asian origin, parking his car near a stream where he off-loaded dead chickens.

"This is not the first time this guy has been coming to the stream to offload dead chicken," he said. "Every time he does that a fatal accident follows a few days later at the very spot."

Botomani said recently a truck carrying bags of cement had brake failure and the driver lost control and killed three women on the spot.

"This was just a day after this man was seen off-loading dead chicken in the stream," he said.

Another eye-witness, Grace Msonthi - also a resident of the area, corroborated Botomani's story, saying she personally knew one of the dead woman.

"We suspect satanism is involved that's why we planned to deal with him whenever we spot him again," he said. "We believe his Asian employers send him to do this satanic ritual."

The unsuspecting man was about to start off-loading his fowl load when the angry residents quickly mobilised themselves following the tip from the woman who saw him and pounced on him.

"He was kicked everywhere; he was lucky that police came quickly to rescue him," said another eye-witness.

Limbe Police Post spokesperson Chifundo Chibwezo confirmed the arrest of the col oured man whom she identified as James Mdogo, a driver for Siku Transport.

"We are investigating the incident; we are yet to charge him with anything but we are keeping him here first for his own safety and secondly for him to help in investigating this incident," she said.

Chibwezo said several police officers were wounded, three of them seriously, and had to be rushed to the city's main referal hospital, the Queen Elizabeth Central.

Unconfirmed reports say one woman was shot in the buttocks but Chibwezo could neither confirm or deny this.

"I don't have such a report," he said.

She, however, confirmed that teargas canisters were lobbed into the rioting crowd to restore order.

Several people have been arrested following the rioting which lasted till evening hours.

Police were seen patrolling the area to check further occurences of violence.

The angry residents used anything from boulders, tree logs to broken-down vehicles to block the roads in the township. Several cars, including the once the police were using, were smashed.

But Abdul Munaf Rashid, a spokesman for the Rashid family that owns Siku Transport, confirmed one of their dtivers was involved in an "incident" but denied the satanic allegations against his family.

He, however, refused to say more, saying the family was still mourning the death of his brother, Sajid - the company finance Director, who died suddenly last week.