DAR ES SALAAM - Over 200 people have been arrested in Tanzania as part of a nationwide crackdown on witchdoctors linked to a wave of albino attacks and murders, police said Thursday.
Police arrested 225 unlicenced traditional healers and soothsayers during a special operation carried out in several parts of the east African country and due to be extended to all 30 regions.
"Some of those arrested were found in possession of items like lizard skin, warthog teeth, ostrich eggs, monkey tails, bird claws, mule tails and lion skin," said police spokesperson, Advera Bulimba.
Bulimba said the police campaign would target the entire network of gangsters, traders and witchdoctors.
The mass arrest comes a few days after President Jakaya Kikwete described as "disgusting and a big embarrassment for the nation" the ongoing attacks against people with albinism whose body parts are used for witchcraft.
At least 76 albinos have been murdered since 2000 with their dismembered body parts selling for around $600 (S$830) and entire bodies fetching $75,000, according to the UN.
A further 34 albinos have survived having parts of their bodies hacked off while still alive and grave robbers have dug up at least 15 more, seeking buried limbs and bodies.
Albinism is a hereditary genetic condition which causes a total absence of pigmentation in the skin, hair and eyes. It affects one Tanzanian in 1,400, often as a result of inbreeding, experts say. In the West, it affects just one person in 20,000.