An irate mob in the central Malawi district of Mchinji on Tuesday burnt down Mkanda Police Unit and freed four “dangerous” suspects, claiming officers earlier arrested and abused a wrong suspect.
Mchinji police spokesperson Moses Kajawa Nyirenda said on Tuesday more than 20 residents stoned the police building before they burnt it down.
Said Nyirenda: “It all started with one suspect who was found keeping 100 litres of petrol in his home. We took him for questioning, but he escaped [on the way to the unit] and told his friends that police in Mkanda beat him up with no reason. That is when the mob came and started stoning the unit.”
Nyirenda said the police managed to chase the people, but they came again with petrol and burned the whole unit, including releasing the four suspects.
He alleged the villagers also tried to storm houses of police officers.
Said Nyirenda: “Luckily, we had enough police officers to chase the mob and calm the situation. It could have been worse.
“We have arrested 12 people and are treating them as suspects as we continue investigations. We are yet to apprehend the four fugitives who were freed on the night.”
Nyirenda described the fugitives as dangerous criminals who were answering grave criminal charges such as rape and burglary.
A community member who spoke to the Malawi News Agency (Mana) on condition of anonymity, claimed the police arrested a wrong person which made the people angry.
Said the source: “After the police failed to trace the suspect who ran away from them, they just arrested somebody who was innocent. This caused us to go to the police to demand the release of our friend.”
Mkanda is one of the busiest trading centres in the district.
The police unit was built by the community around the trading centre as one way of reducing crime in the area.
This is not the first time villagers have burnt police stations in the Central Region. Villagers in Mitundu last year burnt a police unit after accusing police officers of aiding crime in that area.
Another police unit was burnt to ashes in Likuni last year by a mob during the July 20 demonstrations.