At least 19 people have been killed and 21 others injured in Ikongo, southeastern Madagascar, after police opened fire on an angry crowd protesting the abduction of an albino child.
The officers received orders from their superiors to fire on an angry mob intent on reaching the four suspects who had been arrested for the death of a woman and the abduction of her albino child, reports the Madagascar Tribune news portal.
Some 500 people armed with machetes allegedly tried to enter the police station where the detainees were being held. “We gave the alert, we used tear gas to disperse them, but (…) they began to throw knives and sharp objects at us,” has justified the chief of Police of Ikongo, Andry Rakotondrazaka.
The mob threatened not only to attack the police station where the suspects were being held, but also other police facilities, causing many officers to flee. This allowed some 150 people who were being held in these facilities to flee, but their whereabouts have not yet been traced.
Among the escapees are three of the suspects. The four were ambushed on their way to be transferred by several security agents to a penitentiary in Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar.
Some local media have reported that relatives of the murdered mother killed two people related to the four suspects, bringing the total number of victims for this case would now amount to 21. The child is still missing.
Authorities in Ikongo have announced that they will open a parliamentary inquiry to clarify what they have described as “pure massacre”. The deputy Jean-Brunelle Razafintsiandraofa denied the police version and reproached them for having allowed the prisoners to escape.
“We need to determine what are the responsibilities of each entity. Who fired first?”, Razafintsiandraofa has asked, reports the Midi-Madagasikara news portal.
The albino population is particularly vulnerable in some African countries because of the superstitions and beliefs that still hold sway over them today. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported in March more than a dozen attacks on people with albinism in the last two years in Madagascar.