Mob burns woman to death for witchcraft

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A MOB stripped, tortured and bound a woman accused of witchcraft, then burned her alive in front of hundreds of witnesses in a Papua New Guinea town, police said yesterday.

In rural Papua New Guinea, witchcraft is often blamed for unexplained incidents. Sorcery has traditionally been countered by sorcery, but responses to allegations of witchcraft have become increasingly violent in recent years.

Kepari Leniata, a 20-year-old mother, had been accused of sorcery by relatives of a six-year-old boy who died in a hospital on Tuesday.

She was tortured with a hot iron rod, bound, doused in petrol and then set alight on a pile of car tyres and rubbish in the Western Highlands provincial capital of Mount Hagen on Wednesday, national police spokesman Dominic Kakas said.

“The incident happened in broad daylight in front of hundreds of eyewitnesses and yet we haven’t picked up any suspects yet,” he added.

Mr Kakas described the victim’s husband as the “prime suspect” and said the man had fled the province.

Mr Kakas said he did not know if there was a relationship between the husband and the dead boy’s family.

More than 50 people are suspected to have “laid a hand on the victim” and committed crimes in the attack. While many children had witnessed the killing, there were no child suspects, he said.

Mr Kakas said onlookers were shocked by the brutality but were powerless to stop the mob.

Police officers were also present but were outnumbered and could not save the woman, he said.

There is an internal investigation under way into what action police at the scene took.

Police Commissioner Tom Kulunga described the slaying as “shocking and devilish”.

“We are in the 21st century and this is totally unacceptable,” he said.