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Modern-Day Witch Hunt In Remote India

Unidentified attackers hacked to death five villagers accused of practicing witchcraft in northeastern India, officials said Tuesday.

The deaths take the toll of people believed to have been killed over sorcery allegations to at least nine in the past two weeks in a remote part of Assam state, where many indigenous tribes believe in witchcraft.

The latest five killings took place Sunday in the district of Kokrajhar, around 156 miles west of Gauhati, the state capital, said Mrinal Talukdar, a senior police official.

In the village of Nandipur, "six men armed with machetes stormed a house ... and hacked three members of a family to death late Sunday accusing them of practicing sorcery," he said.

Another middle-aged couple also suspected of practicing sorcery was killed Sunday after unidentified men attacked them with sharp weapons in the nearby village of Bijoynagar.

The witchcraft suspicions stem from the recent deaths of two people in Nandipur from an unknown ailment.

The killings came a week after four decomposed bodies were recovered from a rice field in nearby Baska district. Authorities believe the people were killed because they were suspected of practicing witchcraft.

"I am planning to tackle the menace by imposing a collective fine on an entire area where people accused of practicing witchcraft are hunted and killed," said the Baska district magistrate, Anwaruddin Choudhury.

More than 150 people have been killed in the northeast in the past five years after being accused of practicing witchcraft or sorcery.