Benin alert over 'penis theft' panic
- Illiteracy rates are high and many are very
- The authorities in Benin have ordered security
forces to curb violence in the commercial capital, Cotonou, following
the deaths of five people by vigilantes There have been reports of at
least 10 such attacks since Saturday.
- Four of those who died were burned, another man was
hacked to death. Correspondents say that mobs have attacked indivduals
accused of using magic to steal men's penises.
- The belief that men's private parts can mysteriously
disappear through a handshake or an incantation is commonplace in Benin
where superstition and illiteracy are rife.
- Stripped naked
- The BBC's Karim Okanla in Cotonou says these attacks
begin by someone screaming that that they have been robbed of their
- An angry mob would then descend on any passer-by
deemed to look suspicious, strip them naked and then douse them in
petrol before setting them alight. No one in the crowd would stop to
question their actions or ask whether the accused might possess magical
powers, he says.
- Our correspondent adds that there have been some
lucky escapes for people.
- An angry mob almost necklaced a photojournalist who
happened to be passing by whilst a crowd was hunting for a suspect.
- Another example, he says, was when a high school
principal narrowly escaped death, after a mob objected to him sheltering
a man they had been chasing in his school.
One report said three of the people torched were foreigners.