France has warned its citizens to avoid travelling to Madagascar after a crowd burnt two Europeans to death on a tourist island and lynched a local man because they suspected them of trafficking organs for use in witchcraft rituals.
The two European men, one of whom is thought to be a French national, were hunted down and killed by residents on the island of Nosy Be, one of the Indian Ocean island's leading tourism hubs.
They (the crowd) suspected them of organ trafficking," Madagascar police chief Desire Johnson Rakotondratsima said. "It appears that one of the foreigners admitted it in front of the local residents after they found the dead body of a child."
A third suspected organ trafficker, a Malagasy man, was also killed. "He was lynched," security chief General Andrianazary said. "The security forces arrived too late."
One of the two dead Europeans was French, according to France's foreign ministry. A French interior ministry official said the body of the child had been found with organs removed.
The French foreign ministry said it had warned its 700 citizens in Madagascar to avoid all travel within the country and asked those planning to travel there to delay their trip.
"We are counting on the Malagasy authorities to bring to light the exact circumstances of this and have asked them to take measures to increase security for our nationals on the ground, given that Nosy Be is a popular tourist destination," a spokesman said.
Nosy Be is an island off the northwestern tip of mainland Madagascar famous for its turquoise waters and white-sand beaches.
Analysts say crime has increased in Madagascar since President Andry Rajoelina seized power through a coup more than four years ago, plunging the country into political turmoil and leading donors to freezing aid, which dented public spending.
Almost 80 percent of households now live below the poverty line, one of the highest rates in Africa.
Additional reporting by Associated Press