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Nosy Be, Madagascar - A boy whose death triggered the lynching of two Europeans and a local man on a once idyllic tourist island off Madagascar may have drowned, a local official said Friday.
Vincent Laza, a neighbourhood leader on the island of Nosy Be, now under curfew, told AFP locals had discovered the disfigured body of an eight-year-old boy on the popular Ambatoloaka beach.
“His body was wet when it was found. So it's possible he drowned,” Laza said, adding the boy's genitals were missing and his intestines were exposed.
The claim comes after a mob lynched a Frenchman, a Franco-Italian and a local man, accusing them of murdering the boy for his organs.
In a day-long spasm of rage the men's bodies were burnt in public.
A pile of ash, wood, iron bars, a torso and a pair of charred legs were the only recognisable signs of the earlier orgy of violence.
Government has not given a cause for the eight-year-old's death, but on Friday ordered a 9:00 pm to 4:00 am curfew and would systematically check the papers of all foreigners on the resort island.
The boy's father Luciano Anjara told AFP his son Chaino had disappeared a week ago.
“He went to the mosque all day Friday, then on Friday evening he left accompanied by his friends,” he told AFP.
“According to his friends he began to run home at Dar-es-Salam, that child loved to run. Between the market and our house, he was gone.”
Anjara reported his son missing at the local authorities a week ago.
“We went that very same Friday. There is a gendarme station in our neighbourhood, Ambatoloaka. But they told us to go home and wait.”
By Wednesday rumours had begun to circulate that the boy had been kidnapped, causing a mob to storm the gendarme station Ä
convinced one of the boy's killers was being held there. Rumours spread that foreigners were involved in the boy's kidnapping.
Officers opened fire and two people were killed.
Eventually the mob, numbering in the hundreds, roamed the streets and got their hands on the two foreigners, who were eventually burned on the beach.
An AFP reporter later witnessed a local man being dragged out of a car and burned on the street.
Locals insisted the lynchings, which they described as public justice, would not affect the island's tourism.
“We are targeting the culprits. It's public justice - we just kill them, and if you refuse to kill them we kill you because you're an accomplice,” said Jacob, a resident from the island's capital Hell-Ville.
“We've got nothing against foreigners. You can come visit and there won't be a problem,” he told AFP.
Security forces said the two Europeans had been tortured into a confession, then burned on Ambatoloaka beach, a popular palm-fringed strand ringed by bars and hotels.
One resident claimed the crowd had made sure the Europeans were implicated before killing them.
“They spoke for a long time until the morning hours, and then the foreigners confessed they had killed the child. We have it on video,” said Lala, who lives in the Dar-es-Salam suburb where the local man was killed Thursday night.
District head Malaza Ramanamahafahy named the Frenchman as Sebastien Judalet and said he had a 60-day tourist visa issued on September 15 and his passport indicated he was a frequent visitor to Madagascar.
Ramanamahafahy added the Franco-Italian, whom he named as Roberto Gianfala, had an expired Madagascan visa.
French foreign ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot confirmed that “two of our citizens are dead” - one of whom also had Italian nationality - and said officials were “in contact with the families”.
“An inquiry has been opened with Malagasy authorities. According to our information, six people have been arrested,” Lalliot said.
That number of arrests could not immediately be verified.
On Friday, with some vigilantes still on the hunt for a rumoured fourth suspect, a team of top Madagascar government ministers - including those of the interior and foreign affairs Ä jetted in to the holiday spot to calm the situation.
French and Italian authorities have urged their nationals on Nosy Be to remain vigilant and to stay indoors at night.
About 700 French people live here and 100 French tourists are visiting the island of 40,000 residents.
But Friday tourists were walking on the same beach and swimming in the turquoise waters near where the two Europeans' bodies were burned only a day before.
Mob justice is common on the vast island nation off the southeastern African coast, which authorities struggle to police effectively.
Prime Minister Omer Beriziky Friday condemned the attack “with force and vigour”.
“Popular justice is never a solution in a state of law,” he said in a statement.
A ritual “joro” meeting will be held Saturday, with the local “moral authorities” and members of the government, the ministry of communication said.