Police in the southern African country have detained 140 people linked to mob attacks on blood-sucking 'vampires.' Nine people have been killed after rumors spread of evil spirits.
Authorities in Malawi rounded up dozens of people linked to vigilante attacks on people suspected of being vampires, as Malawi police inspector general Lexon Kachama on Friday said further arrests were expected.
Kachama said 140 people were being held as authorities attempted to regain control of spiraling hysteria in southern pockets of the country that followed rumors of "blood-suckers" on the prowl.
In the latest case, a man with epilepsy was burned to death on Thursday in Blantyre, Malawi's second-largest city. Another person there was stoned to death.
The large number of arrests took place after angry mobs clashed with police and blocked main roads in the city.
In total, nine people have been killed over the past month in mob attacks on people who local residents say were trying to obtain human blood for voodoo rituals.
Rumors of vampires allegedly originated in neighboring Mozambique and spread across the border to a country where education standards are low and where belief in witchcraft is widespread.
Malawi's President Peter Mutharika has appealed for calm and vowed that his government "will offer protection from these alleged blood-suckers."
Authorities have imposed a night-time curfew and say they are keen to ensure the mob attacks don't spread to other cities. The United Nations -- which is involved in food aid and agricultural programs in the country -- has pulled its workers out of some areas for safety reasons.
Police say thieves and robbers have taken advantage of the fear in some communities and have stepped up their harassment of local residents by mounting illegal roadblocks.
Author: Katrin Gänsler
mm/aw (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)