Banjul - A 28-year-old man accused of stealing a man's penis through sorcery was beaten to death in the West African country of Gambia on Thursday, police said.

A police spokesperson said that Baba Jallow was lynched by about 10 people in the town of Serekunda, some 15km from the capital Banjul.

Reports of penis snatching are not uncommon in West Africa, with purported victims claiming that alleged sorcerers simply touched them to make their genitals shrink or disappear in order to extort cash in the promise of a cure.

The police spokesperson said many men in Serekunda were now afraid to shake hands, and he urged people not to believe reports of "vanishing" genitals.

Seven alleged penis snatchers were beaten to death by angry mobs in Ghana in 1997.