Residents of the Ivorian village of Kpo-Kahankro are in shock. In the past two months, over 15 mysterious deaths have plunged the entire community into despair.
Dorothée Ahou Kouamé has lost her 3-year-old granddaughter. Authorities say they have found traces of a deadly bacterium on the deceased.
"At present, the body is still in the morgue. The burial has not yet taken place. I haven't seen her since that day. We were forbidden to see them," Mrs Ahou Kouamé laments.
Some are blaming witchcraft and accusing a prominent villager of installing a fetish.
Clostridium, a common but deadly bacterium was found both on the so-called object of witchcraft and on corpses that authorities tested. Still many grey areas remain.
"We're still afraid... we're still afraid, because the first blow (of the series of deaths, editor's note), was on 2 December when it killed six people, it let up for, let's say, a month and then it started again. So this is our concern," Paul Kouassi,a village youth leader details.
Expedited court hearing
The man accused of installing the object and the owner of the land where the fetish was set were condemned to 5 years in prison on February 9 for disorderly conduct and charlatanism.
The fetish was moved out of the village. The local chief is not completely reassured though.
"It's a mystical thing. It's a wind-driven thing. When it's wind-driven, you can't see it. So it's a mystical thing. So it surrounded the whole village," Nanan Patrice Koffi says.
According to the health authorities 16 died but villagers say 21suffered untimely deaths including 18 children.
Symptoms prompted by botulism that is caused by the deadly bacterium include vomiting and muscle paralysis.