Yamoussoukro: More than 20 children have been kidnapped in recent weeks in the Ivory Coast, most of them later found dead with mutilated bodies, police said Friday, raising fears of a wave of ritual sacrifices.
"The phenomenon is real and unusual. Our services have registered 21 cases from December to yesterday (Thursday)," police chief Brindou M`Bia told a press conference.
Most of the children, seized in various parts of the country, "were found dead, mutilated, decapitated and without their genitals," he added.
Police have so far made one arrest in connection with the crimes.
"Is it for rituals, linked to the approach of the (presidential) election?... Whatever the reason this is very serious," Norbert Abekan, a charismatic preacher, told the Nord-Sud daily.
The impoverished west African nation, which has suffered a decade of political and military crisis, is set to hold a presidential election in October.
Rumours circulate widely during election years of kidnappings, notably of albinos, for ritual sacrifices.