The police in Meghalaya’s East Khasi Hills district arrested more than 20 people for allegedly lynching a man on Sunday night under the suspicion that he was a kidnapper, The Telegraph reported on Wednesday. A mob allegedly attacked a group of nine youngsters in Mawkynrew block of the district while they were on their way back from a picnic at Syntung village.

Six of the nine reportedly managed to escape to a nearby forest area, but some of them were seriously injured. Another person, identified as 24-year-old Macmillan Kharshandy, succumbed to his injuries before he was admitted to the Shillong civil hospital. His final rites were performed on Tuesday.

“A case has been registered under relevant sections of the law and all efforts are being made to nab the other culprits involved in this heinous crime,” Assistant Inspector-General of Police Gabriel K Iangrai said. “Public are requested not to spread rumours regarding the incident.” He added that 27 suspects were arrested initially but two people, a minor and a senior citizen, were let go. However, a report in The Hindu claimed that 24 people were arrested.

The accused were produced before a court on Tuesday evening. Iangrai said police received information that a Khasi boy had been assaulted at Pashang area of Mawkynrew on Sunday after which a team was sent. Police officials rescued the youngsters on Monday.

“We picked up these people around 4 am,” said District Superintendent of Police Claudia A Lyngwa. “They said they presumed the nine men to be kidnappers as they were moving back and forth from one village to another at night. They had apparently been forewarned about the movement of suspicious people via social media.”

The victims claimed they were delayed while picnicking and lost their way back at night. Following this, some villagers stopped their vehicle and assaulted them. Lyngwa added that most of the accused had been sent to judicial custody, and six were sent to police remand.

R Pale, the Syntung village headman, said the village elders had tried to pacify the mob, but to no avail. “Some of the village elders went to the house of the victim in Shillong to pay their respects and apologise for the attack,” he added.