Roaming packs of feral dogs kill six children in India
At least two dozen more youngsters have been injured in attacks
Roaming packs of feral dogs have killed six children in the past week in northern India, according to police.
The children, aged between five and 12, were killed in and around the town of Sitapur, about 50 miles from Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh state.
At least two dozen more youngsters have been injured in attacks, which have terrified villagers who have begun keeping their children at home and killing any dogs they encounter.
Senior police officer Anand Kulkarni said many of the attacks occurred when children were out gathering mangoes or using outside toilets.
A total of 12 children have been killed in dog attacks in the area since November, officials said.
It was not clear how many dogs were involved in the attacks, but India has millions of strays that wander the streets in even the most exclusive neighbourhoods.
The feral dogs often survive on leftover food set in alleys for them, but also face relentless cruelty from people, and regularly fight other dogs over territory.
While injuries from dog attacks are fairly common, a string of fatalities in one area is rare.
Some villagers believe the attacks began after a nearby illegal slaughterhouse was closed, making the dogs more aggressive after they were left without a major source of food.
Education officials say some schools have seen a significant drop in attendance because of the attacks. Parents have been told to accompany their children to and from school.
The recent deaths included three children killed by a pack of strays on May 1, Mr Kulkarni said. Two more children were killed on May 4.
On Friday, a seven-year-old girl named Gita had gone with two other children to pick mangoes from an orchard when a pack of dogs attacked them, police said.
Two children escaped but Gita was surrounded by the dogs. Her screams alerted villagers who ran to help, but she had died by the time they reached her.
Sitapur magistrate Harshdeo Pandey said villagers have been told not to allow their children to use outhouses on their own.
"Public announcements have been made in villages regarding this," he said. "We also suggest that children should not be allowed to go out to play for a few days, until all these dogs are caught."
Villagers have been shooting and strangling stray dogs.
Four teams of catchers have captured 24 dogs in recent days, said district magistrate Sheetal Verma.