Several children, kidnapped while their parents were away late last year, have been found dead and in a gruesome state. Reports indicate that the children, aged between two and nine, were found dismembered and horrifically mutilated.

Authorities suspect that witchcraft motivated the horrors that were inflicted upon the children. Some witchdoctors in the area where the children were killed claim that by obtaining certain body parts, people will attract money and good fortune.

District Commissioner of Tanzania’s Njombe region, Ruth Msafiri, told the BBC, “This is all about superstitious beliefs. Many believe they will get help from witchcraft.”

“These murders are linked to witchcraft practices – that is the trend for such crimes. Herbalists ask people to get human parts for money rituals,” she said. “We urge all parents and guardians to be on the alert and to teach their children how to determine the motives of those around them.”

Msafiri was also quoted by CNN as saying, “We want to identify the perpetrators, but our focus is to quickly educate the traditional practitioners in the area and those in surrounding communities on the need to stop these acts.”

Read: Malawi bans witchdoctors and media adverts for herbalists to curb albino killings

According to Amnesty International, albinos in Tanzania are frequently targeted for abuse because of discrimination and the belief that their albinism is the result of curses. Furthermore, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has described the market for their body parts as one that fetches between US$2 000 to US$75 000.

The Health Ministry is still investigating the wave of killings, given that many children have been reported missing in the same community since late last year. Tanzania’s Deputy Minister of Health, Faustine Ndugulile, told CNN, “We want to identify the perpetrators, but our focus is to educate the traditional practitioners in the area quickly and those in surrounding communities on the need to stop these acts.”

Massive intervention and the prosecution of the killers are an immediate necessity because, at one in 1 500 people, Tanzania has one of the highest rates of albinism in the world. However, even with such a high prevalence there is rampant ignorance about and intolerance of albinism, reports Amnesty International.