YAOUNDE (Reuters) - Authorities in Cameroon have arrested five people suspected of trafficking in body parts after they were discovered at a checkpoint carrying a severed human head, state radio and wildlife conservationists said on Tuesday.
Body parts of humans and rare animals are prized by some in central Africa for their supposed supernatural powers, and used in occult ceremonies.
Traffickers often get human remains from grave-robbers, but a recent spate of killings has also been linked to the gruesome trade.
Cameroon’s state-owned broadcaster CRTV said the suspects had been transporting the body parts in a bag along with elephant meat from Djoum, a small town about 280 km (170 miles)south of the capital Yaounde, when they were stopped at a checkpoint.
Eric Kaba Tah, a spokesman for Last Great Ape Organisation, a conservation group that assists Cameroon’s forestry and wildlife ministry, told Reuters it made the discovery while searching for animal poachers.
“We opened the bag and discovered that among the human remains there was a skull with hair still looking very fresh,” Tah said.
Upon questioning the men said the body parts were to be handed over to a buyer in Yaounde who had promised to pay them 10 million CFA francs ($19,800), Tah said.
The suspects, who included three university students, were arrested and taken to the capital for further investigation.
Earlier this year, gendarmes in Cameroon arrested a man in Batie, about 315 km west of Yaounde, who was also caught with a severed bloody head.
Interviewed on television, the suspect said he had been promised 5 million CFA francs by a businessman if he delivered fresh human organs.
Reporting by Tansa Musa; Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Andrew Roche