PORT-AU-PRINCE - Four children from the same family have been found dead in Haiti after being treated by a witch doctor who claimed to be able to cure them of a mysterious illness, a local official said Friday.
"Three girls and a boy, the eldest of whom was seven years old and the youngest only 15 months, suffered abuse from the healer who was treating them," said Wilfrid Brisson, an official from the southern town of Marbial, told AFP. "They were then abandoned in their mother's bed."
According to neighbours, the sorcerer - who was assisted by his brother - persuaded the victims' mother that the children were possessed by a demon and said he could rid their soul of the devil.
The witch doctor and his brother beat the children repeatedly, in steps they said were necessary to expel the demon, and the youngsters died from the blows, said Brisson.
The alleged killers have apparently fled to the capital Port-au-Prince. An investigation by authorities in Marbial is under way and the children's mother is in custody.
About half of Haiti's population is believed to practice the voodoo religion in some form, though many are thought to also follow other religious beliefs at the same time. Sorcery and spiritual magic have been incorporated into some of the beliefs.
Voodoo evolved out of the beliefs that slaves from West Africa brought with them to Haiti. It is now deeply rooted in Haitian culture.
Western evangelical Christian movements, however, have also made inroads in Haiti.