TABORA, Tanzania (RNS) Many women are living in fear in this rural part of northwestern Tanzania because they are increasingly being targeted by witch hunts — literally.

This East African country is grappling with an upswing in vigilante justice as villagers attack women they believe are witches responsible for the murders of albinos, whose white skin some believe possess magical powers.

Last month, some 200 angry villagers — mostly youths carrying axes, machetes and knives — grabbed Jane Faidha Bakari, 58, in Tabora, hacked her with sharp weapons and burned her alive while her helpless husband watched.

“They came around midnight banging on the door,” said Moses Bakari, her husband. “They broke into the house and hacked my wife with machetes and knives. They burned the body of my wife and later set fire on my house. They claimed that my wife was practicing witchcraft and killing albinos.”

The villagers believed the woman was using body parts from albinos — people born with the absence of pigment in their skin, eyes and hair — to practice witchcraft. Bakari fled with his three children and took refuge in a neighbor’s house.

“I neither knew nor heard that my wife was practicing witchcraft,” Bakari said. “I still don’t believe that I lost my wife to such a painful death. I will only heal if justice is done, because she was innocent.”

The murder of Bakari’s wife isn’t uncommon. Frightened neighbors-cum-vigilantes lynched, stoned or hacked more than 1,000 women to death last year, according to the Center for Advocacy in Rural Development, a Kenyan development group, and the Dar es Salaam-based Legal and Human Rights Center. The groups estimate more than 3,000 suspected witches, usually late middle-age and older women, were killed in the past six years alone.

“The government has failed to apprehend witch doctors who kill our innocent people,” said Wilson Asida, a Tabora resident. “They have killed many albinos to help them gain magical powers. We’ll kill them ourselves to get justice.”

Asida accused the government — which banned witchcraft in January — of relying too much on the courts to prove whether women were practicing witches. “They pretend as if they don’t know witchcraft exists,” he said.

Attacks against those with albinism also seem to be on the rise, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in a statement last week, citing at least three incidents in the past two months. The statement was in response to the “horrific murder and mutilation” of a 1-year-old baby with albinism earlier this month.

The agency worries the killings will only rise in the run-up to October’s Tanzanian presidential elections as political campaigners seek the help of seers who use albino body parts to foretell the future.

In the past 15 years, at least 75 albinos have been killed in Tanzania, but prosecutors have convicted just 10 people in those murders, according to the U.N. Albino organs fetch hundreds of dollars in illegal trading. Around 33,000 people out of a population of about 50 million have albinism, according to the Tanzanian Albinism Society.

Older women are suffering from the backlash against witches as a result of the albino deaths, said Erick Wandera Omwami, chief executive of the Center for Advocacy in Rural Development, who is pushing the government to expand its education campaign against killing albinos to include admonitions against harming alleged witches.

“It’s unlucky for older persons to live in this region, but we should know that every older person has a right to life like anyone else,” he said. “We’ll work together to help communities understand the rights of others and avoid retrogressive and barbaric actions on other human beings.”

Tanzanian police admit witchcraft-related killings are common in the country’s northwest but say catching the culprits is difficult. The lynchings tend to occur after someone dies unexpectedly in the community or when albinos go missing, said police spokesman Ignas Mtana.

Often, he said, sorcerers identify other witches as the perpetrators of the misfortunes. Because the same people who attack witches often consult with other enchanters and potentially also deal in albino body parts, it’s hard to get to the bottom of the cases, Mtana said.

“The family members will go to soothsayers to find out the cause of death and the responsible person,” Mtana said. “The soothsayers will say the name of a witch as the cause of death.”

Mtana said police intervene in lynchings they witness and arrest anyone attacking a suspected witch on sight, but forces are spread thin throughout the region, which includes the great plains of the Serengeti.

In the meantime, women are hiding out of fear of being attacked.

“Someone dropped leaflets bearing my name” on a list of suspected sorceresses, said Rosemary Aziza, 76, who lives near Tabora. “I will hide until the things go back to normal.”


New video obtained by CNN shows a different angle of the shooting that left a homeless man dead after a struggle with LAPD officers. CNN’s Kyung Lah reports.


Authorities in the Houston area are urging residents to do more to keep guns out of the hands of children in the wake of three child shootings there in four days.


By Colleen Jenkins

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C., March 2 (Reuters) – North Carolina prosecutors will seek the death penalty against a man who police say kept detailed notes on parking at his condominium complex before gunning down three young Muslims in a neighboring unit, according to documents released on Monday.

Craig Hicks, 46, is charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the Feb. 10 shooting deaths of a newlywed couple and the wife’s sister about two miles from the University of North Carolina campus in Chapel Hill.

The Durham County District Attorney’s Office said on Monday it filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty for Hicks last week.

A hearing will be held in early April for prosecutors to present their evidence to a judge, a member of the district attorney’s office said.

The decision by prosecutors comes as federal and local investigators work to determine whether Hicks, a paralegal student who portrayed himself on Facebook as an atheist, was motivated by hatred toward the victims because of their religion.

Police have said their initial investigation indicated a dispute over parking may have prompted the killings, which drew international attention and sparked widespread use of the hashtag #MuslimLivesMatter on social media.

Newly released search warrants indicate Hicks’ wife suggested the theory of a parking incident as a possible motive.

A search of Hicks’ computers showed he kept pictures and notes on parking activity in the lots around his condo, police said in the warrants.

Police seized a cache of firearms and ammunition from his home, according to the documents.

Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, a University of North Carolina dental student; his wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21; and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, a student at North Carolina State University, were killed in the shooting.

Their families have urged authorities to investigate the case as a possible hate crime, saying Hicks had made the victims feel uncomfortable.

The search warrants show officers were reviewing the victims’ cell phones to see if they contained any evidence of confrontations or interactions the victims may have had with the suspect.

(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Bill Trott and Eric Beech)


Emotions were running hot across the country Monday after a viral Facebook video showed Los Angeles police shooting and killing a man in the city’s Skid Row district, where homeless people camp in the city’s downtown.


An ongoing federal lawsuit filed by the family of Tamir Rice prompted a response from the city of Cleveland last week arguing that the 12-year-old was responsible for his own death.

The city’s claims caused outrage from family and community members — and perhaps led to a public apology from Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson who shared the city’s regrets for the language they used.

“This is not the character or personality of the city of Cleveland to be that insensitive to the family or even the victim,” Jackson said at a news conference on Monday, according to local news station Fox 8.

A series of defenses filed on Friday show that the city claimed Rice’s fatal shooting was a result from his failure to “exercise due care to avoid injury” and that the family’s “injuries, losses and damages” were caused by their own acts.

The city’s response to the federal lawsuit, which lists approximately 20 defenses, have left Rice’s family in “disbelief.”

“They were completely and totally outraged by the city’s response,” Walter Madison, an attorney for Rice’s family, told HuffPost Live’s Alyona Minkovski on Monday. “They have just begun to pick up the pieces after having lost a loved and then to be blown to pieces yet again about this incredulous claim that this 12-year-old is at fault for his death.”

Rice died on Nov. 22 after officers responded to a call about a person holding a firearm near a recreation center. Officer Timothy Loehmann, a rookie cop who has received poor performance reviews in the past, fatally shot Rice almost immediately upon arrival. It was quickly revealed that Rice had been carrying a non-lethal toy gun with plastic pellets — the incident also was captured on video.

“You can look at that video and see for yourself, in 1.7 seconds, they shot this young child without any respect or deference to give him time to comply,” Madison said. “I do not believe that [Loehmann] should be absolved and the family certainly is hopeful that justice is done.”

In further defense of the officer’s actions, Steve Loomis, the president of the Cleveland Police Patrolman’s Association, suggested that Tamir’s height and stature also played a role in his death.

“Tamir Rice is in the wrong,” Loomis told Politco in a piece published last week. “He’s menacing. He’s 5-feet-7, 191 pounds. He wasn’t that little kid you’re seeing in pictures. He’s a 12-year-old in an adult body.”

In response, Madison slammed this theory and expressed his thoughts on how Loomis’ comments were another example of victim-blaming.

“That’s ridiculous. We know from all the incidents before that that’s just a common response, that’s the playbook, the seems to be the script, to victim blame,” he said.

“Now, however, we’re talking about blaming a 12-year-old for his own death. Essentially, what they’re telling the world is that we’ve created a new standard for 12-year-old children nationwide that they’re going to be responsible for consequences that we don’t expect 12 years to really appreciate.”

HuffPost Live have asked the Cleveland Police Department to comment. They have yet to respond.