Bodies of 26 Ethiopians found in mass grave in Malawi

BLANTYRE, Malawi (AP) — Officials in Malawi have exhumed the bodies of 26 suspected Ethiopian migrants from a mass grave 255 kilometers (155 miles) north of the capital city, Lilongwe.

Villagers found the bodies in a forest located near the main road that connects Malawi and Tanzania, which is known as a route traffickers use to transport people to South Africa.

The early evidence suggested the men buried in Mtangatanga Forest may have suffocated while traveling in a van, police said. Investigators are looking into the deaths as a potential human trafficking case.

“Arrangements are underway, through the Ministry of Health, to bring a pathologist to do the postmortem so that we have an official version of the cause of death,” Rodney Simwaka, the commissioner of the Mzimba District in the Northern Region of Malawi, said.

Simwaka told The Associated Press he heard Wednesday morning that villagers had found dead bodies near a timber factory.

Evidence collected at the scene indicated the men were Ethiopian nationals between the ages of 25 and 40, Malawi police spokesperson Peter Kalaya said.

In July, police impounded a 30-tonne (33-ton) tanker truck carrying 42 Ethiopians into Malawi along the route from the border with Tanzania..

Authorities said at the time that some of the passengers looked frail and in urgent need of medication and nourishing food.

One of the migrants, the only one who spoke English, told police the group had been in transit for at least four months to get to Malawi.

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