RAIPUR, India, (AFP) - An Indian villager has axed to death four women and five young girls on Thursday while apparently mentally disturbed after his wife left him, police said.
Mr Pandu Nagesia, 35, is accused of killing nine of his neighbours during a deadly rampage through Behratoli village in the central state of Chhattisgarh, district police chief Govardhan Singh Darroh told AFP by telephone.
The victims were five girls aged between two and nine, a 25-year-old and three women over 60, he said.
"A total of nine females were axed to death," police chief Darroh said.
"The accused Nagesia first attacked a 25-year-old woman and her two-year-old child and axed them to death, subsequently killing his neighbours one after another," he said.
"The accused seems to be mentally disturbed after his wife deserted him," he added, after Mr Nagesia was taken into custody and the axe recovered from the village, 625km north of the state capital Raipur.
An eyewitness said the incident happened in the early afternoon when some women and children had assembled at a house after their male relatives had gone to work in a nearby mine, the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency reported.
Local officials have announced compensation of 25,000 rupees each (S$568) for the families of the deceased, PTI said.
Attacks on Indian women have been in the global spotlight since December, when a 23-year-old student was brutally attacked and raped by six men on a moving bus in the capital New Delhi. She died two weeks later of her injuries.
The case prompted outrage at home and abroad, prompting parliament to toughen laws to make the country safer for women.
Since the Delhi case, a string of other attacks have hit the headlines, including the gang-rape of a Swiss cyclist in central Madhya Pradesh state last month.
On Wednesday, four sisters walking home in north India suffered severe burns after being attacked with acid by two men on a motorbike - a brutal example of another growing problem in South Asia.