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Burundi arrests eight for albino killings

BUJUMBURA, March 15 (Reuters) - Burundi has arrested eight people found with human bones suspected of belonging to albinos, a government official said on Sunday.

The tiny east African nation and neighbouring Tanzania have been convulsed by a spate of ritual albino murders fuelled by a body parts trade. Witchdoctors tell clients that albino parts will bring them luck in love, life and business.

"Before arresting them, we did a search and found human bones in their houses," said Nicodeme Gahimbare, a public prosecutor in the eastern Ruyigi province.

"The eight were denounced by two other detained people who have already confessed to killing two albinos," Gahimbare said.

Albinism is a condition that causes a lack of pigment in the eyes, skin or hair, which makes patients especially vulnerable to skin cancer and burns, and makes life particularly difficult in sun-drenched Africa.

Since last year, 11 albinos have been killed in Burundi. Forty others have been murdered in Tanzania since mid-2007.

Kazungu Kassim, the head of a Burundi albino association, said: "Authorities have now realised that the killing of albinos is a serious matter which needs concrete action.

"We urge the government to double efforts in protecting albinos, because what we are witnessing here is a planned extermination of the albino community."

There are about 200 albinos in the nation of 8 million people. (Reporting by Patrick Nduwimana, editing by Helen Nyambura-Mwaura)

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