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7 killed in Ghana over 'penis-snatching' episodes

January 18, 1997
Web posted at: 3:00 p.m. EST (2000 GMT)

ACCRA, Ghana (CNN) -- Seven sorcerers who were accused of grabbing penises were beaten to death by angry mobs in the Ghana capital of Accra, police said. The capital is so chaotic the army may have to be called in to restore order.

According to police, two men were lynched Thursday and by Friday the death toll had risen to seven. Victims allege that the sorcerers touched them to make their genitals shrink or, in some cases, disappear to extort cash for the promise of a cure. Inspector General of Police Peter Nanfuri told state television he was prepared to call in the army.

So-called penis snatching reports are not uncommon in West Africa, where purported victims often blame penis shrinkage on handshakes with sorcerers. Residents recall a similar scare in Accra in the early 1980s.

Police and government officials dismiss the stories as the work of thieves, who police say spread rumors to create a crowd and then pick people's pockets.

Medical experts have appeared on state television explaining in detail why penises increase and decrease in size. One doctor linked the phenomenon to fear.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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