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Authorities on the island of Nosy Be off the coast of Madagascar are appealing for calm after rioting claimed the lives of three men accused of killing an eight-year-old boy. While Nosy Be has long been known as Madagascar's most popular tourist resort, the calm of the island was disrupted following the discovery of the boy's mutilated corpse. Parts of the boy's body were missing including his tongue and genitals which spurred rumours that he had been killed by "organ traders" trafficking in body parts.
According to reports, a large mob attacked two European man, one French and the other Italian, and subjected them to brutal interrogation to force a confession. They were then paraded through the villages, beaten, and subsequently burned alive. A third man, who was also of European origin but resident to the island, was also tortured and killed on suspicion of involvement with his body later being burned. According to one witness, the mob was made up of thousands of locals, including women and children, who later justified their actions by insisting that the suspects had confessed their crime in full. Police have released evidence that the boy's body had been fully clothed and that the missing parts may have been eaten by sea life since it had been partially submerged.
One witness describing the killings insisted that the victims had been nothing more than scapegoats and there was no real evidence of an organ trade. He also reported that it was impossible to save them due to the size of the mob.
The island has been in turmoil since the boy had been reported missing with locals attacking a police station where a suspect was being held. The police opened fire and one person was killed which set the rest of the locals on a rampage burning cars and houses belonging to police officers. Along with mistrust of authority figures, Nosy Be residents have been unsettled by rumours of organ traffickers and Europeans preying on children. As a result, vigilante justice is on the rise with locals dealing harshly with suspected lawbreakers. In September 2012, locals killed 67 cattle thieves after a gang of cattle rustlers stole animals from three villlages.
While residents of Nosy Be depends on tourism to sustain their economy, they maintain a love-hate relationship with European tourists (known as vazahas in the local tongue), many of whom are believed to come to the country for child sex tourism. Posters warning against the dangers associated with child sex work are common sights although many parents have few options but to sell their children for financial gain. As rumours of atrocities arise, the locals are increasinly determined to avenge any offenses despite efforts to maintain order.
Following the killings, the French government has issued a warning to the 700 foreign nationals living on the island (most of whom are French or Italian) and the French school on the island has been temporarilly closed. The United States and other countries have also issued travel advisories pending a full investigationn into the killings. The Madagascar government is working to restore order though new incidents may occur while the island locals are in their current state of agitation.
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