Nineteen people have died after police in Madagascar opened fire on what they called a lynch mob, angered at the kidnapping of a child with albinism, a senior doctor has said.
Dozens were also wounded in the incident on Monday.
“At the moment, 19 people have died in all, 10 on the spot and nine in hospital,” Tango Oscar Toky, chief physician at a hospital in southeastern Madagascar, told AFP.
“Of the 34 injured, nine are between life and death,” said the doctor. “We are waiting for a government helicopter to evacuate them to the capital.”
On the large Indian Ocean Island, people with albinism are regularly the target of violence. More than a dozen abductions, attacks, and murders have been reported in the past two years, according to the United Nations.
A reported kidnapping of a child with albinism happened last week in the town of Ikongo, according to Jean-Brunelle Razafintsiandraofa, a Member of Parliament for that district.
Four suspects had been arrested by the gendarmes but the residents went to the gendarmerie barracks on Monday, demanding that the suspects be handed over, the lawmaker said.
Some 500 protesters, armed with blades and machetes, “tried to force their way” into the station, a police officer involved in the shooting said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“There were negotiations, (but) the villagers insisted,” the officer told AFP over the phone from the town of Ikongo, 350 kilometres (about 220 miles) from the capital, Antananarivo.
“They continued to force their way through. We had no choice but to defend ourselves,” the officer added.
The national police in the capital confirmed the “very sad event”, but only gave a toll of 11, with 18 injured.
Andry Rakotondrazaka, the national police chief, told a news conference that what happened was a “very sad event. It could have been avoided but it happened”. -AFP