Hit squads created to hunt down gays in Tanzania.

Tanzania has created a squad dedicated to hunting down gay people so they can be arrested and jailed.

Paul Makonda, the regional commissioner for Dar es Salaam, said the surveillance team would be using social media to hunt down same-sex couples in his district.

He also encouraged people to hand over names of anyone they suspected of being gay so authorities could investigate.

Homosexuality is still a crime in deeply religious Tanzania and homophobic rhetoric has been on the rise since President John Magufuli was elected in 2015.

Makonda, who is a close ally of Magufuli, said: ‘I have received reports that there are so many homosexuals in our city, and these homosexuals, are advertising and selling their services on the internet.

‘Therefore, I am announcing this to every citizen of Dar es Salaam. If you know any gays … report them to me, give me their names.’

The anti-gay surveillance team will be made up of 17 people including state officials, police and people involved in the media, he said.

Makonda vowed that arrests will begin on Monday next week.

He added that homosexual behaviour ‘tramples on the moral values of Tanzanians and our two Christian and Muslim religions’.

The squad will also take action on pornography, with Makonda telling people to delete naked images from their phones.

Tanzania has strict laws against homosexuality, with gay people facing up to 30 years in jail if they are caught.

Deputy health minister Hamisi Kigwangalla has previously said that being gay is ‘unnatural’, ‘ungodly’ and a mental illness.

The country has already carried out waves of arrests and persecutions against the gay community, including deporting men accused of being gay rights activists.

Last year 40 HIV/AIDs clinics were closed down after being accused of promoting homosexuality.

At the same time, President Magufuli encouraged women to abandon birth control and have more children, a move critics warned would lead to an STD epidemic.