Indian police shot dead four men suspected of brutally raping and murdering a woman, officials have said, with rights groups decrying the “extrajudicial” killings.
The men tried to escape while visiting the crime scenes for a reconstruction of events, according to Shreedharan, an official in the police commissioner’s office.
The suspects were shot after they attempted to grab a police officer’s firearm and run away, according to another police official who remained anonymous.
The men were accused of a premeditated attack on a 27-year-old veterinary student, who has not yet been named, in the outskirts of Hyderabad, in southern India.
They allegedly deflated the woman’s scooter tyres and waited for her nearby, before then approaching her under the pretence of offering help and attacking her.
They then gang raped and asphyxiated the woman, before dumping her body in a nearby underpass and setting it alight.
The burnt body was found last week by a passer-by and was reportedly so badly scorched that her family identified her using only a locket she was wearing.
The men have been identified as Mohammad Areef, Jollu Shiva, Jollu Naveen and Chintakunta Chennakeshavulu.
The high-profile case sparked protests across India.
About 300 people gathered at the crime scene in the town of Shadnagar, southwest of Hyderabad, to praise police for fatally shooting the suspects.
Some hugged officers and lifted them into the air chanting “long live police”, while others showered them with flowers.
The men were killed around 3.30am local time, according to Priya, a police sub-inspector in Hyderabad.
However, some people have criticised the police for having fatally shot the suspects.
Kavita Krishnan, secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association, said: “The killings are a ploy to shut down our demand of accountability from governments, judiciary and police, and dignity and justice for women. We demand a thorough investigation into this.”
“Extrajudicial killings are not a solution to preventing rape,” said Avinash Kumar, executive director of Amnesty International India.
“In a modern and rights-respecting society, using extrajudicial executions to offer justice to victims of rape is not only unconstitutional, but circumvents the Indian legal system and sets a grossly-wrong precedent,” he said.
“An independent investigation is essential.”
This week, a woman was set on fire by men she accused of having raped her while on her way to court.
Over the summer, six men were convicted in the rape of an eight-year-old in Kashmir and an alleged victim died after setting herself on fire to protest alleged police inaction.
There were almost 39,000 rape cases reported across India in 2016, according to the county’s National Crime Records Bureau.
Additional reporting by Associated Press