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Senegal mobs kill foreigners suspected of shrinking male genitals

August 4, 1997

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) _ Vigilante mobs convinced that foreign sorcerers can shrink a man’s genitals with a mere handshake have killed eight people in Senegal in the past week.

Attackers killed five people at Ziguinghor in southern Senegal after a man accused one of them of making his penis shrink, newspapers reported Friday. At least three other people were killed in the West African nation’s capital, Dakar.

More than 30 other people have been seriously injured in the mob attacks, in which vigilantes have beaten, stabbed and in at least one case burned their victims.

Mboyo Jean Roger, a refugee from Congo, told police he was attacked last week after he shook hands with a group of men before he entered a shop. When he left the store, one man confronted him, shouting that his penis had shriveled just after the handshake.

Roger said the group pounced on him while onlookers shouted, ``Death to foreigners! They are all witches!″ Passers-by handed him to police for protection.

Belief in black magic and evil spells runs strong in West Africa, and the rampant rumors have created a ``collective psychosis″ leading to mob attacks, said Dakar psychologist Mamadou Mboj.

The violence in Senegal is the deadliest result yet of a bizarre rumor that led to killings earlier this year in Cameroon, Ivory Coast and Ghana.

The rumor varies, but generally alleges that foreigners use black magic on a man they touch, causing his penis to shrink. An accomplice of the magician then offers to sell the victim a cure, the rumors say.

African foreigners were targeted in all the countries, a sign of the ethnic animosity common to the region and the resentment many Africans feel toward outsiders who compete with them for scarce jobs.

In Senegal, a local radio station helped fuel the hysteria when one of its correspondents reported that he had seen a man whose genitals had shriveled through some malevolent contact.

Police are investigating the killings. Dakar’s public security commissioner, Ahmadou Tall, told the government-run Le Soleil newspaper he personally examined about 15 people who made such claims and found the allegations to be false.

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