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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 September 2007, 08:39 GMT 09:39 UK
Ten men beaten to death in India
A man who survived the lynching at Vaishali district, Bihar, being taken to the hospital [Pic: Prashant Ravi]
There have been a number of lynchings in Bihar Pic: Prashant Ravi
Ten people have been beaten to death by a group of villagers in the northern Indian state of Bihar, officials say.

The men, who arrived in a vehicle in Vaishali district early on Thursday, were stopped by villagers who suspected them of being thieves.

The villagers have set up patrols after complaining about a spate of thefts, and the lack of police action.

Correspondents say that the incident highlights the widespread problem of mob lynching in India.

Bihar Home Secretary Afzal Amanullah told the BBC that one man had been injured in the incident in Dhelpurwa village and taken to a local hospital.

The surviving man in the group, Ranjit Keuri, has told the police that they had come to the village to commit thefts, an official said.

No arrests have been made.

Brutality

A local resident, Manjay Lall, said police had failed to take action after rising incidents of theft in the village.

"When the police did not act, villagers began patrolling the village. So they caught these men and lynched them at the spot," he said.

Vaishali police chief S Anupama Nilekar said an investigation had been launched to determine whether the men were thieves.

"Only after a proper probe we can say whether those lynched were thieves or not. The villagers are saying they were thieves and on the face of it, it seems so," she said.

Map
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar has condemned the incident.

"The people should catch the criminals and hand them over to the police. They should not take the law into their own hands," he said.

The eastern state of Bihar is considered to be one of India's most lawless states.

It has seen a number of recent incidents of mob lynching and alleged police brutality.

Last month, the local police were filmed joining a mob to punch and kick a man accused of stealing a gold chain in Bhagalpur town.

At least two policemen could be seen in the video.

Two have been suspended pending an inquiry into the incident.

Last week, a mob beat three people suspected of stealing motorcycles in Nawada district and gouged out the eyes of one of them.




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