Zambia Deploys Army to Quell Riots After Criminal Attacks

(Bloomberg) --

Zambian President Edgar Lungu deployed troops to restore law and order in the capital after residents meted out mob justice to people they suspected of attacking civilians’ homes with gas.

The unrest, which prompted the U.S. to issue a security alert, spread to Lusaka on Thursday, with crowds killing at least five people, the Zambia Police Service said in a statement. The protests first started in the northern Copperbelt province last month, and have spread to at least four of Zambia’s 10 provinces so far.

“These criminals are hired, they’re not acting on their own,” Vice President Inonge Wina told lawmakers Friday. “This is done to instill fear in our communities.”

Similar riots erupted in the capital in 2016, when residents accused foreigners of a spate of killings. At the time, Zambia was enduring economic troubles comparable to the past year. Inflation has soared, economic growth has slowed, and households have electricity for only 12 hours a day. It’s unclear what the motives are of those behind the reported gas attacks.

“Rumors of ritualistic killings and residential gassings have led to incidents of civil unrest and vigilante justice in multiple provinces,” the U.S. Overseas Security Advisory Council said in a statement on its website. “Citizen groups are targeting individuals suspected of being involved in the rituals, gassings, or any other criminal activity.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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