Voodoo killings reportedly rise in Haiti epidemic

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — At least 45 people have been killed across Haiti due to accusations they are using “black magic” to spread cholera, the director of a Voodoo association said Friday.

Most of the killings are occurring in the southern coastal town of Jeremie, where people are being lynched, set on fire and attacked with machetes, said Max Beauvoir, a Voodoo priest. But he said killings also have been reported in Cap Haitien and the Central Plateau.

Local police did not return calls seeking comment on Beauvior’s numbers on Christmas Eve, though The Associated Press reported in early December that national police spokesman Frantz Lerebours said machete-wielding mobs had killed a dozen people accused of practicing witchcraft to spread cholera.

Andre Leclerc, a U.N. police spokesman, said Friday he had received reports of only a couple of killings recently, but said that Beauvoir would have more exact figures.

Fear and confusion have surrounded the cholera epidemic, which has killed more than 2,400 people and could affect another 600,000 or more, experts say.

The United Nations recently created an international scientific panel to investigate the source of the deadly epidemic, which many Haitians suspect could be a U.N. base in Meille, outside the central plateau town of Mirebalais.

Beauvoir said he has contacted police to no avail, asking them to prevent further killings.

Roughly half of the 9.6 million people who live in Haiti practice Voodoo, also known as Vodou, a blend of West African and Christian religion.

The cholera outbreak hit Haiti as it struggles to recover from a devastating magnitude-7 earthquake that killed 300,000 people and left more than 1.5 million homeless.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.