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Vigilantes scour New Delhi for 'Monkey Man'

Monkey Man
Artists impressions of the now imfamous 'Monkey Man' have appeared in the Indian press  

By staff and wire reports

NEW DELHI, India -- Groups of vigilantes have taken to the streets of New Delhi to track down a mysterious "monkey man" blamed for dozens of attacks on local residents.

Police on Friday said they suspected the attacks, in which dozens of people have been bitten and clawed, were the work of a gang of trouble-makers.

"It's definitely not one person," Joint Commissioner of Police Suresh Roy told Reuters on Friday.

The elusive "monkey man" has spread panic among New Delhi residents following confirmation that dozens of people have animal-bite injuries.

On Thursday, police offered a reward of 50,000 rupees ($1,063) for information leading to the capture of the "monkey man," which they now believe is not an animal, and said a special team had been set up to solve the puzzle.

"We are going to zero down on this very early and put an end to this menace," spokesman Ravi Pawar said.

But television news reports said that many of the city's residents were taking the matter into their own hands, trawling the streets at night armed with hockey sticks and batons.

Frenzied mob

In one case a frenzied mob of around 150 people caught and beat a man in the east of the city, only to discover that he was an innocent bystander.

A young man points to a spot on his back where he claims the 'Monkey Man' scratched him
A young man points to a spot on his back where he claims the 'Monkey Man' scratched him  

Roy said the police were trying to quash the collective "fear psychosis" which has gripped some suburbs of the sprawling city and said rumor-peddlers would be dealt with harshly.

The Delhi police have announced the formation of a crack team dedicated to nabbing the elusive 'Monkey Man' and offered a reward for his -- or its -- capture.

Two terrified residents of the city's suburbs, including a pregnant woman, fell to their death earlier this week on hearing cries in the neighborhood warning that the attacker was nearby.

Collective hysteria then set in after many people said they had been scratched or bitten by the creature while they were sleeping on terraces, particularly during power cuts.

Police dragnet

Hundreds of police officers have been deployed to patrol the city through the night after the sightings were reported in the east and northeast of the capital.

On Wednesday night, however, police started to receive calls from scared residents in other parts of the city.

Police said the calls usually turned out to be more a result of emotional and panic imaginations rather than an actual encounter.

Noises, suspicious shadows and even hearsay had caused residents to call the police.

"No one saw the actual monkey-man. But there was no paucity of wild stories," said a senior police officer, as quoted by the Times of India newspaper.

Ruse to secure power supply

Stories circulating suggested the creature preyed on people sleeping on roofs -- a habit common among Delhi residents to cope with hot summer nights.

However, in the first reported case of an indoor attack, an 18-year-old boy claimed he was attacked and scratched by a creature with "brown fur, resembling a monkey" in his residence on Wednesday afternoon.

Some police officers started to make a connection between the sighting calls and New Delhi's frequent power failures.

They suspected some residents called the police every time there was a power failure because they believed police would be forced to restore power before starting a search.

There were different versions of how the "monkey-man" looked. Two portrait sketches, based on the creature's victims, suggested it was human.

One showed a swarthy broad-faced bearded man with a flat nose, thick lips and a piercing stare. The other, which could hardly have been more different, portrayed a narrow-faced man with a receding hairline, a scrappy moustache and dark glasses.

However, some residents said the creature was "as small as a cat" and had metallic hands, while a few others claimed it was a monkey who could turn into a cat.

Monkeys run wild in New Delhi and on the outskirts of the city. Sometimes they pounce on unsuspecting pedestrians or enter houses.

Police suspected the terrorizing creature was an animal, but the city's zoo director, P.S. Bonal ruled out the possibility.

Another police officer told the Times of India: "The only thing that we have been able to fathom is that a prankster, with a sick sense of humor, is behind the attacks.

"However, nine out of ten sighting are bogus. Apparently, everybody wants his moment of glory. These bogus sighting are making it impossible for us to get to the bottom of the matter."

Reuters contributed to this report.

• The Statesman
• The Indian Express
• The Times of India

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