Lilongwe - Police in Malawi's Nsanje district are on the hunt for nine men, notorious for raping young girls as part of an cultural cleansing tradition, Nyasa Times reports.
The sex predators, known as "hyenas", are believed to be hiding out in caves across the district in an effort to evade police.
The development follows the arrest of Eric Aniva, an HIV-positive hyena who has admitted to having sex with over a hundred underage girls for money.
Cuthbert Kaonga, an officer at the Nsanje Police Command, claims that Aniva was arrested after he gave conflicting reports to officers and reporters from the BBC.
“Aniva told us that he stopped the practise long ago, yet he has told the BBC that he continues practising it so we will find out the truth,” Kaonga stated.
Malawian President Peter Mutharika had earlier issued a statement ordering Aniva's arrest and calling for an inquiry into the role of the parents involved.
Aniva should "be investigated for exposing the young girls to contracting HIV, and further be charged accordingly", Mutharika added.
"Harmful cultural and traditional practices cannot be accepted."
Women's rights activist Emma Kaliya has called on security operatives to detain parents and villagers who still take part in the outdated sexual cleansing ritual, which sees underage girls as young as 12 being sent to "initiation camps" before puberty. Here, adolescents are taught how to have sex and are forced into sexual intercourse, over three days, after the start of their first period.
The ritual is believed to train girls to become good wives and to protect them from disease or misfortune that could befall their families or their village.
May Shaba, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Gender and Welfare, has said that those who indulge in the practice cannot be condemned. They would instead be given information in the hope that this would make them change their ways.