Zambian police arrest 16 suspects after chemical attacks


Police in Zambia have arrested 16 people suspected of being behind a spate of attacks in which people have been sprayed with poisonous substances and some have died police said.

President Edgar Lungu last week ordered soldiers to join the police in patrolling the streets after the attacks, which have sparked public outrage.

The attacks began in December and were initially confined to the mineral-rich copperbelt but have since spread to the capital Lusaka. Police are still trying to pinpoint the exact number of victims.

Britain and the United States have issued travel alerts to their citizens following the attacks.

“We have formally arrested 16 persons and among them one of them is actually purported to be funding these operations,” deputy police spokesman Rae Hamoonga told Reuters.

Police would deal sternly with members of the public who had resorted to mob justice and attacked suspects, he said.

“The situation is slowly getting back to normal.”

Hakainde Hichilema, leader of the main opposition party the United Party for National Development (UPND), said the government should invite Britain’s Scotland Yard to help investigate.

Chanda Chongo, a 37-year-old housewife, said people in her poor neighbourhood in Lusaka were spending sleepless nights, fearing they would be attacked.

“The government needs to do a lot more. My neighbour’s daughter was choked last night after her room was sprayed with chemicals,” Chongo said.

Another Lusaka resident, Simon Sense, said several of his neighbours were outraged. “The deployment of soldiers and police is very good. At least these vices have gone down,” Sense said.