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Wednesday, 7 August, 2002, 11:14 GMT 12:14 UK
Panic over India 'face snatchers'
A man shows scratches on his body after being attacked by the mysterious monkey-man in Delhi last year.
Attacks in Delhi last year were blamed on a 'monkey man'
The authorities in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh have appealed for calm as public concern mounts over alleged attacks by what local people describe as "face snatchers".

Nearly 100 people over the past month and a half have reported to the police with wounds and scratches on their faces and body after mysterious unexplained attacks.

A wolf
Police say wild animals might be attacking people
Police say these victims have been giving varying descriptions of the supposed attackers.

Some think them to be wild animals.

But most others claim to have seen an illuminated flying object which they think has been carrying out these attacks.

Meanwhile, police have asked the Kanpur-based Indian Institute of Technology to investigate a video recording of such an object sent by a resident from the eastern town of Mirzapur.

The report is still awaited.

Panic and protests

Despite appeals for calm, panic has gripped people in large parts of the state.

Normal life has been affected in many areas with people rushing to get back home before dark.

Hundreds of people in Mirzapur blocked traffic for hours on Monday to protest against what they described as inaction on the part of the government in dealing with the issue.

The Inspector General of Police for the Varanasi distrcit, AK Jain, told the BBC that a villager guarding his crop from wild animals last week was badly injured when other villagers attacked him, mistaking him for one of the "face snatchers".

Officials believe the phenomenon is nothing but wild rumour verging on mass panic.

They say a severe drought in the area seems to have forced some wild animals to come closer to human settlements in search of water and food - a possible explanation for some of the incidents.

Meanwhile, police have begun night patrols in the affected areas to assuage public fears.

Orders have been issued to take strict action against anybody found to be spreading panic by wearing animal masks or telling wild stories about the mysterious phenomenon.

Last year, a scare about night time attacks by a supposed monkey-man was reported from the Indian capital, Delhi.

Animal activists described it as tricks played by pranksters.

See also:

18 May 01 | South Asia
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