UN Condemns Surge of 'Vicious' Witchcraft Attacks on Albinos in Tanzania

U.N. human rights officials condemned a recent surge of violence against Albinos in Tanzania in connection with witchcraft beliefs and practices.

"I strongly condemn these vicious killings and attacks, which were committed in particularly horrifying circumstances, and which have involved dismembering people, including children, while they are still alive," said Navi Pillay, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, according to Reuters.

Albinos, who are people born with a congenital disorder caused by the absence of pigment in the skin, have traditionally suffered great hardships in Africa. They have been subject to grotesque crimes, such as having their limbs chopped off by practitioners of indigenous religions.

Some witchcraft practitioners believe that albino body parts can be used for creating potions, charms and curses, and are funded by locals and foreigners who pay high money for favorable spells.

"These crimes are abhorrent," Pillay added. As many as 72 people have been killed in Tanzania since 2000, but only five people have successfully been convicted. In January a string of new attacks were reported in Kanunge village in Tabora region, which resulted in the death of a 7-year-old albino boy.

"His attackers slashed his forehead, right arm and left shoulder and chopped off his left arm just above the elbow," the U.N. High Commissioner commented, revealing that the boy's 95-year-old grandfather was also killed trying to protect him.

And in February, a 39-year-old female albino was murdered by a gang of five armed men in Mkowe village in Rukwa region.

"They hacked off her left arm while she was sleeping with two of her four children," Pillay revealed.

In the village of Msia, also in Rukwa, a 10-year-old boy was attacked on his way home from school by two unidentified men who chopped of his arm above the elbow, though he survived.

"The Tanzanian authorities have the primary responsibility to protect people with albinism, and to fight against impunity, which is a key component for prevention and deterrence of the crimes targeting this exceptionally vulnerable community," Pillay added.

Christianity and Islam are the dominant religions in Tanzania, but practitioners of the occult are still active in certain villages and more rural areas.

In February, a senior Florida priest was shot dead before a church service in Tanzania, though the attackers are believed to be Islamists.

Another Catholic priest was wounded on his way home from church on Christmas Day, pointing to tensions between the religious communities in the African country.