35 held over mob lynching on Madagascar tourist island

NOSY BE, Madagascar (AFP) - Madagascar police on Monday held 35 suspects in connection with the mob lynching of two Europeans and a local man accused of killing a young boy on a tourist island.

Authorities refused to give details about their investigations, saying only that they have arrested 35 people suspected of playing a role in the violence.

"We are arresting people for multiple offences," a local police officer told AFP. "Those who attacked us, those who participated in the riots, those who participated in the lynchings."

"We are also arresting those who took photographs of lynchings," said the officer, who asked not to be named because he did not have clearance to speak to the media.

Residents of Nosy Be island rampaged last Thursday after the death of an eight-year-old local boy, whose body was found on the popular Ambatoloaka beach a week after he went missing.

Amid rumours that foreigners were involved, a mob of hundreds found a Frenchman and a Franco-Italian and burned them on a beach ringed by bars and hotels.

Pictures and video images taken by residents captured the moment when one of the bodies was burned in front of about 100 people, including a man who was both armed and wearing a uniform.

Afterwards a pile of ash, wood, a torso and a pair of charred legs were the only recognisable signs of the orgy of violence.

The slain foreigners were later named as French man Sebastien Judalet and Franco-Italian man Roberto Gianfala.

The uncle of the dead boy was also killed and burnt later the same day.

Mr Vincent Laza, a neighbourhood leader on the island, told AFP that the boy's body was wet when it was found, suggesting he may have drowned.

Mob justice is common on the island nation off the southeastern African coast which authorities struggle to police effectively.

French police have opened a murder investigation into the death of Judalet, who was an employee of the Paris public transport company RATP.

Famous for its white pristine sandy beaches and turquoise waters, Nosy Be is Madagascar's main tourist magnet, but the island is sadly notorious for being a hotbed of sex tourism.

About 700 French people live on the island of 40,000 residents.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.