A group of religious cast-offs in Ohio has been attacking fellow Amish, cutting off their hair and beards in an apparent feud over spiritual differences in the deeply traditional community, a sheriff said.
Members of a group of families disavowed by mainstream Amish have cut the beards off men and the hair off several men and women, Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla said. He said the cutting apparently was meant to be degrading.
The attacks occurred over the past three weeks in the heart of Ohio's Amish population, one of the largest in the US.
A 57-year-old woman blamed her sons and a son-in-law for an attack on her husband and said they were involved in a cult. She pointed at her husband's short, ragged beard, then took off a bandanna and showed bare patches on her scalp.
"They did this to me," she told deputies, according to a report.
The Amish often shun modern conveniences as a matter of spiritual principle. It is common practice for married Amish to have beards, and "Likewise, women do not cut their hair based on biblical teaching," Donald Kraybill, a professor at Elizabethtown College and an expert on Amish life, said.
He said Amish-on-Amish violence "is extremely rare".
No charges have been filed, but several victims suffered minor injuries, Sheriff Abdalla said.
The investigation has been hampered by the traditional reluctance of Amish to turn to law enforcement, he added.
"You see this crime being committed, and I'm sitting here with my hands tied," he said. "I can't do a thing."