A mob of angry rioters tortured and lynched two Europeans, at least one of whom was French, who they believed were responsible for the death of an eight-year-old boy, whose body was found with his tongue and genitals removed.
“The rioters proceeded to launch a manhunt against vazahas [Europeans], which led to the death of two,” General Guy Robin Randriamaro of Madagascar’s national police told AFP on Thursday.
“The foreigners are French, named Sebastien and Roberto, and they had admitted under torture [at the hands of the mob] that they had been engaged in organ trafficking,” he added.
Local police commissioner Honoya Tilahizandry said the pair "were killed and burned on Ambatoloaka beach", a popular palm-fringed strand of white sand on the idyllic resort island of Nosy Be, off the north-western coast of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean.
One French newspaper, Le Figaro, reported the two men were still alive when they were burned.
France’s ministry of foreign affairs, however, has so far only confirmed that one of the men was a French national. Witnesses have said one may have been Italian.
On Wednesday night, locals crowded around police headquarters in Hell-Ville, capital of Nosy Be, convinced that the abductor of a missing local boy was being detained there.
Police claim to have dispersed the mob by firing shots in the air, but there have been reports of one rioter being killed at the police station, and three others injured.
The episode appears to have escalated rapidly, however, when the missing boy was found dead on Thursday morning.
“The lifeless body of an eight-year-old boy, missing since last Friday, was found without his genitals or his tongue,” a deputy police commander said on Thursday.
A furious mob then proceeded to set on fire as many as eight houses belonging to police officers, during their rampage, before finding their eventual victims.
A Frenchman living on the island of Nosy Be told Le Parisien newspaper he had witnessed their savage murders on the beach at around 6am local time on Thursday.
“It woke me up. I saw a huge crowd arriving, I’d say about 3,000 or 4,000 people, including women and children,” he said.
“The two men were badly beaten, and then thrown on to a fire. What happened was atrocious. Unfortunately it was impossible to intervene,” said the man, who claims to have known one of the victims, and rejects allegations the pair were involve in organ trafficking, calling them “scapegoats.”
A witness told local media the rioters only targeted the two men suspected of having ordered the boy's kidnapping, but left other foreigners alone.
The French consulate has discouraged its nationals from visiting Nosy Be island "until order is restored, especially on the beaches."