AT LEAST 20 people have died countrywide at the hands of mobs since the beginning of gassing incidences which have now spread to all but three provinces, leaving a trail of destruction.

In Lusaka alone, police have confirmed about 13 people have been killed on suspicions that they are behind the gassing of residents.

Yesterday, the trend spread to Northern Province where an unidentified man was killed by a mob in Kasama after he was suspected of being involved in chemical spraying.

Witnesses spoken to told News Diggers that a police officer whose identity had been withheld took off his uniform and left it in the vehicle of the Mansa victim, before the duo went out for a drink.

“What happened is that a local police officer, after knocking off from duty took off his uniform in order to go and drink, and he left the uniform in the car of his colleague. Now some members of the public spotted the police uniform and immediately became suspicious that maybe someone was using police uniform to spray people in the night. That’s how they started breaking the vehicle, and when the owner of the vehicle came, the mob descended on him and killed him instantly. That is when he was dressed in the police uniform that did not belong to him. Upon noticing this, the police officer escaped and sought refuge at the police.

In a separate incident, residents of Chongwe ran amok yesterday after word went round that police had detained some suspects behind chemical spraying in the area.

In Kafue District residents closed off the main high way and conducted a search on motorists, while beating those who resisted.

In a statement, police spokesperson Esther Katongo gave a round up of events, but said the owner of the police uniform in Kasama had not been established.

“In Northern Province in Nseluka area, there was a report of mob justice in which members of the public have killed an unidentified male person who they later dressed in a combat police uniform which was found in the victim’s motor vehicle. This was after members of the public suspected the deceased who was in the area in the company of his colleague to be behind chemical spraying in the area. Upon interrogations, the friend to the victim ran away. The mob searched the victim’s motor vehicle and found a pair of police combat uniform which they dressed him after killing him and later set the victim’s motor vehicle on fire. Investigations have been instituted to establish the source of the police combat uniform,” read the statement.

Katongo said it was criminal for members of the public to block roads and search motor vehicles on suspicion that they carried chemical substances and that some offenders took advantage of the situation to steal from motorists.

She has warned members of the public to desist from involving themselves in duties which were not within their mandate.

“We have experienced an emerging tendency where members of the public are blocking public roads and searching motor vehicles on suspicion that they are carrying chemical substances being used in suspected chemical spraying cases currently being experienced in some parts of the currently. This is a pure act of criminality where some criminals would want to take advantage of the prevailing situation to attack unsuspecting members of the public and steal from them.Between Manyinga and Mufumbwe of North Western Province, a mob blocked the road using logs and stones and stopped motor vehicles among them, a Power Tools Bus and demanded that they conduct a search on the bus,” Katongo stated.

“Upon searching the bus they found a first aid kit which contained pain killers, bandages, methylated spirit, gloves and a small axe as per road traffic regulations but the mob became suspicious after seeing an axe. A similar situation was experienced in Kafue yesterday between 18:00 hours and 20 :00 hours and also around 06: 00 hours where a mob blocked the road between Kafue Gorge turn off and Shamikobo area, stopping and searching motor vehicles and caused damage to five motor vehicles. Police have arrested eight people for riotous behavior who are currently detained in police custody. We are therefore warning all those who have adopted this tendency or those contemplating the same that as police we will not take this criminality lightly. We urge members of the public to desist from this criminal act and avoid involving themselves in duties which are not within their mandate,” Katongo said.

“In Chongwe, police today received a report of riotous behavior which was sparked after word went round that police had detained some suspects behind chemical spraying in the area. They then went to the police station in the area demanding the release of the said suspects with a view of killing them. The mob later went to the streets where they staged riots. More updates to follow,” read the statement.

Katongo said 27 people have been arrested in Lusaka’s Mtendere compound for carrying offensive weapons.

“In another development, 27 people were arrested in the early hours of today by a joint operation team in Mtendere Compound for conduct likely to cause the breach of peace. Twenty two various offensive weapons were recovered from them. After screening, those linked to the offensive weapons are likely to be charged with possession of offensive weapons. All those who would want to conduct patrols in their communities should do so in liaison with police in their respective areas. All those that will be found moving round communities on pretext of conducting patrols without police blessings will be dealt with accordingly.” stated Katongo.

Meanwhile, investigations have been launched in a report of malicious administering of chemical substance which was reported at Arthur Wina School in a grade 9 class. This happened today between 12:00 hours and 12:30 hours yesterday.