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Tanzania Bans Witchcraft to Stop Albino Killings

FILE - Participants march towards Mnazi Mmoja grounds during Tanzania Albino Day celebrations in Dar es Salaam.

Tanzania's government has declared a ban on witchcraft in an effort to halt deadly attacks on albinos.

The move follows mounting pressure on the government to protect albinos, who lack pigment in their skin and hair, and whose body parts are used by witch doctors in so-called magic potions thought to bring power and wealth.

The U.N. human rights agency says more than 70 people with albinism have been killed for body parts in Tanzania since 2000.

Minister for Home Affairs Mathias Chikawe said Tuesday that the government has formed a task force that will investigate killings and review court cases for accused attackers, some of whom have gone free.

Ernest Kimayo, chairman of the Tanzania Albino Society, welcomed the government's actions, saying it will improve life for his community.

The task force will initially target five regions where the attacks are believed to be most common.

Albinism is a congenital disorder that affects about one in 20,000 people worldwide, but is much more common in Tanzania, affecting about in 1,400. The community faces rampant discrimination, as well as a high threat of skin cancer.

Attacks on Tanzanian albinos appear to have surged in recent years, driven by high black market prices for their body parts.

U.N. pressure on the government intensified last week after the kidnapping of a four-year-old girl in the Mwanza region.