Madagascar tourist island smolders after lynchings

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NOSY BE, Madagascar – Tensions simmered Friday on the once idyllic Madagascar resort island where a mob lynched two Europeans and a local man suspected of killing a boy for his organs.

Piles of ash marked the spots on Nosy Be where a local man, a French national and a man with dual Italian and French nationality were burned by a furious mob.

The three were suspected of killing an eight-year-old local boy and mutilating his corpse, sparking an orgy of violence that rocked this tropical Indian Ocean haven.

With some vigilantes still on the hunt for a rumored fourth suspect, a team of top government ministers jetted in to the holiday spot to meet local leaders in a bid to calm tensions.


French foreign ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot confirmed Friday that “two of our citizens are dead” — one of whom also had Italian nationality — and said officials were “in contact with the families”.

“An inquiry has been opened with Malagasy authorities. According to our information, six people have been arrested,” Lalliot said.

Local residents insisted there was no risk to tourists.

“We are targeting the culprits. It’s public justice — we just kill them, and if you refuse to kill them we kill you because you’re an accomplice,” said Jacob, a resident from the island’s capital Hell-Ville.

“We’ve got nothing against foreigners. You can come visit and there won’t be a problem,” he told AFP.

Security forces said the two Europeans had been tortured into a confession Thursday, then burned on Ambatoloaka beach, a popular palm-fringed strand ringed by bars and hotels.

District head Malaza Ramanamahafahy said the Frenchman, named as Sebastien Judalet, had a 60-day tourist visa issued on September 15 and his passport indicated he was a frequent visitor to Madagascar.

Ramanamahafahy said the Italian, whom he named as Roberto Gianfala, had an expired Madagascan visa.

An Italian foreign ministry spokesman said: “I can confirm the Italian nationality of the victim but not his identity, the corpse was burnt.”

A pile of ash, wood, iron bars, a torso and a pair of charred legs were the only recognizable signs of the earlier orgy of violence.

One resident said the crowd had made sure the Europeans were implicated before killing them.

“They spoke for a long time until the morning hours, and then the foreigners confessed they had killed the child. We have it on video,” said Lala, who lives in the Dar-es-Salam suburb where the local man was killed Thursday night.

An AFP correspondent saw the local man being dragged from a vehicle and his body thrown onto a fire.

The French consulate discouraged its nationals from visiting Nosy Be until calm had been restored. About 700 French people live on the island and 100 French tourists are estimated to be there.

Despite the events, some expatriates appeared relaxed.

“There’s no problem, we just avoided going out for a few days,” said a Frenchman who has lived here the past four years.

“The men who were lynched probably were responsible for the child’s death but I doubt there’s really any organ trafficking.”

The lynching were the culmination of a three-day spasm of violence that has led to the deaths of at least five people.

On Wednesday security forces shot dead two protesters when the mob stormed a paramilitary police station, convinced one of the boy’s killers was being held there.

Security forces updated the death toll to two after officers opened fire to disperse the crowd, despite claiming they fired shots in the air.

In Paris, Lalliot said the French foreign ministry had “incomplete information”, but knew that one of the two Europeans was “installed in Nosy Be since last spring, the other from a more recent date.”

Mob justice is common on the vast island nation off the southeastern African coast, which authorities struggle to police effectively.

The Madagascar National Tourism Board said ordinary visitors had nothing to fear from travelling to the country, since the men had been targeted specifically.

In 2012, more than 255,000 tourists visited Madagascar, an increase of more than 13 percent than the previous year.

AFP

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