A mob in an Indian village has beaten to death three men suspected of trying to steal cattle, the latest in a spate of attacks that have provoked alarm among the country’s religious minorities.

The three men were caught by some villagers in Saran district’s Pithauri village in the eastern state of Bihar early on Friday while trying to load cattle on a pick-up truck, police official Har Kishore Rai told Reuters news agency.

“They were trying to load a buffalo and a calf when some villagers woke up and took the three into their custody and beat them up,” Rai said, adding that the men had died.

At least one of the dead was Muslim. A fourth man was in critical condition in hospital after the attack.

As news of the deaths spread, Pithauri residents went to the hospital to stage an angry protest, police said. Relatives of the dead beat up a man from the village.

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