By SARA MALM
PUBLISHED: 18:24 EST, 22 January 2013 | UPDATED: 18:39 EST, 22 January 2013
- 18 bodies have been found in Yaounde, Cameroon in two weeks
- Latest five victims, aged 15-26, were found outside a pre-school on Friday
- Families hide indoors and vigilantes patrol the streets looking for killers
The West African nation of Cameroon has been shaken by a series of ritual killings of young people, causing panic in the capital of Yaounde.
Police have found 18 mutilated bodies on the streets of the capital in the past two weeks, all believed to be linked to occult rituals.
On Friday the dismembered body of 17-year-old student Michele Mbala Mvogo was found alongside four others outside a pre-school in the capital. Her genitals, tongue, eyes, hair, and breasts had been removed.
All five bodies were identified today, State security officials told CNN. They are mostly high school students aged 15 to 26.
Yaounde police have arrested a number of suspects but so far no charges have been made.
The Cameroon capital, which has a population of just over two million, is in a state of distress with families staying behind locked doors as soon as darkness falls.
Police warn pedestrians to walk in groups at all times and have cracked down on local bars frequented by criminals, shutting them down in the dozens.
Vigilante groups of young men guard the streets at night and hunt for the killers, as the people of Yaounde say the police are not doing enough to keep the city safe.
‘There is laxity in the forces in ensuring security in the capital,’ Deborah Ngoh Tonye, sister of victim Michele Mbala Mvogo told CNN.
The new wave of gruesome killings in the capital have also seen dozens of complaints about mutilated corpses in the mortuaries of Yaounde’s public hospitals, according to Health Minister Andre Mama Fouda.
Murders involving ritual organ harvest were common in Cameroon up until the 1970s but as education spread in the nation, the number of religious killings retracted.
Occult groups believe that certain body parts such as eyes, genitals and tongues have the power to bring fortune and wealth.