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50 killed in anti-sorcery rituals after being forced to drink "mysterious liquid," Angola officials say

About 50 people have died in Angola after being forced to drink an herbal potion to prove they were not sorcerers, police and local officials said Thursday. The deaths occurred between January and February near the central town of Camacupa, according to Luzia Filemone, a local councilor.

Police confirmed that 50 people had died.  

Speaking to Angola National Radio broadcaster, Filemone accused traditional healers of administering the deadly concoction.

"More than 50 victims were forced to drink this mysterious liquid which, according to traditional healers, proves whether or not a person practices witchcraft," she said.

Belief in witchcraft is still common in some rural Angolan communities despite strong opposition from the church in the predominantly Catholic former Portuguese colony.

"It's a widespread practice to make people drink the supposed poison because of the belief in witchcraft," provincial police spokesperson Antonio Hossi told the radio network, warning that cases were on the rise.

Angola does not have laws against witchcraft, leaving communities to deal with the issue as they see fit.

Allegations of sorcery are often settled by traditional healers, or "marabouts," by having the accused ingest a toxic herbal drink called "Mbulungo." Death is believed by many to prove guilt.

Last year, Bishop Firmino David of Sumbe Diocese in Angola told ACI Africa that socio-economic challenges in the country are forcing some to "resort to the practice of witchcraft because they believe that with witchcraft, they can get what they want and thus free themselves from poverty and get everything they need to survive."

Firmino encouraged his fellow Angolans "to help rescue people who try to make a living from practices that are harmful to society, including witchcraft and drugs."

During a 2009 trip to Angola, Pope Benedict urged Catholics to shun witchcraft and sorcery.

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